MONTREAL – Quebec’s highest court will rule whether Montreal can appeal a lower court decision that put its controversial pit bull measures on ice pending a legal challenge.
Lawyers for the city appeared in the Court of Appeal on Friday and argued the pit bull rules are in the public interest.
Montreal even seemed willing to make some concessions: a city lawyer promised no pit bulls would be euthanized until the legal challenge is fully heard — something that could take several months.
Justice Manon Savard will deliberate before ruling at a later date, but suggested the city and the SPCA, which is challenging the law, should talk.
On Friday, city lawyer Claude Marseille argued some measures should stand, including mandatory outdoor muzzling, leash restrictions and special licences.
Marseille said the bylaw provisions neither constitute a “mistreatment” of pit bulls nor creates an irreparable prejudice to owners and he told the court the SPCA’s concerns aren’t enough to warrant a suspension.
SPCA lawyers countered the stay they were granted is necessary because, they say, parts of the bylaw are discriminatory, unreasonable and penalize all pit bulls regardless of their behaviour.
The SPCA’s Sophie Gaillard was surprised by the city’s apparent attempt at an olive branch. Following the hearing, she said the euthanasia ban alone wouldn’t be sufficient if the dogs could not be put up for adoption.
Gaillard said the SPCA has limited shelter capacity and can’t house dogs indefinitely.
“At this stage of the game, (the city) is suddenly saying that they’re willing perhaps to make certain concessions when we’ve been trying to meet with them to see if we can come to some sort of compromise on this since they first announced the bylaw in June,” Gaillard said.
“We’ll consider what they have to offer, but one thing is for sure: our position is that healthy, adoptable, behaviourally sound dogs that present no danger should not be euthanized and we won’t be the ones to do it.”
Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis J. Gouin granted the stay last week, suspending several pit bull-related provisions of the city’s animal control bylaw that came into effect Oct. 3 and would have prohibited new pit bulls in Montreal while placing severe restrictions on those already living there.
Gouin ruled the bylaw was hastily drafted, suggested the city might have overstepped its jurisdiction and agreed the definition of “pit bull-type dogs” was “vague and imprecise.”
The SPCA is also against mandatory muzzling for all pit bulls, arguing studies point to muzzles creating behavioural problems in otherwise well-behaved dogs.
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