Breed Specific Legislation: What is it?

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

Many people have followed the news out of Montreal recently, where the city council ruled to pass “Breed Specific Legislation” or “BSL”. This ruling states the following:

  • Any dog resembling a pit bull is now illegal to adopt or purchase.
  • All pit-bull type dogs must be muzzled when in their yard or out on walks.
  • Families must pay a fee for a permit ($150) to keep the dogs they already own.

The breeds affected by this group are: Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, any mix with these breeds and any dog that presents characteristics of one of these breeds.

So what’s the problem?
The guidelines of the law are so vague they extend to any type of dogs with “pit-bull” like characteristics. Visual breed recognition is entirely subjective and notoriously unreliable. Family dogs with no history of aggression or behavioral problems are subject to all of the restrictions above. For those that cannot afford the permit, they are forced to surrender their beloved family member to a shelter, knowing they have no chance of being adopted or re-homed under this new law. Can you imagine condemning your best friend to death?

The CDC has declared BSL to be an ineffective measure for protecting the public. Instead, they found focusing on responsible pet ownership and educating children and the public about bite prevention to be a more effective tool. We encourage every parent to educate their children on how to safely and respectfully interact with all animals.

Currently, a judge has ordered a delay of the ban, and a longer-term suspension of the by-law is being sought from the Quebec Superior Court. We hope Montreal will see that they are on the wrong side of history, and repeal this by-law quickly and in its entirety.