MONTREAL – Hundreds of two-and-four-legged Montrealers took part in a march on Saturday to protest bans on pit bulls and other legislation that targets specific dog breeds.
The event was part of a wider global day of action against breed-specific legislation, with events also planned in other cities across Canada and worldwide.
But event organizer Dana Hyde said this year’s march has special significance in Montreal because the city’s mayor has announced plans to ban pit bulls and other breeds deemed to be dangerous beginning in September.
Hyde believes breed bans are unfair and don’t reduce dog bites.
“You’re targeting the wrong end of the leash,” she said. “You have to go after the people, not the dog.”
Hyde and many of Saturday’s protesters called for tougher penalties for irresponsible owners and enforcement of existing regulations including leashing and licensing.
“If you look at any scientific studies, they show no dog is born inherently dangerous,” she said. “It’s the environment and upbringing that make the dog.”
Other marchers called for providing education and training for both dog owners and the public.
The issue of banning pit bulls in Quebec has raged as of late after several attacks, with one causing a fatality involving a 55-year-old Montreal woman.
Quebec City and Brossard announced municipal bans, and Premier Philippe Couillard has said his government is likely to follow Ontario’s example and take province-wide action.
Ontario banned the breed in 2005, but doesn’t know whether the ban has reduced dog bites because data isn’t collected at the provincial level.
Some other Canadian cities, including Winnipeg, have banned the breed.
On Saturday, many of the Montreal marchers brought their pit bulls along and were eager to show off their well-mannered pets.
Some of the dogs donned T-shirts and angel wings while their human companions waved signs and sported T-shirts sporting anti-BSL slogans.
“Save a pit bull, muzzle a politician,” one T-shirt read. A sign reading “honk if you love pit bulls,” drew a loud response from obliging motorists.
Kerry Wyllie, who attended the march with her dog Brinn, worried Montreal’s proposed ban would mean many friendly and adoptable shelter dogs would be euthanized.
She said her six year old pit bull, once an abused puppy mill rescue, is now the proud mascot of the dog-friendly cafe and pet food store where she works.
“She comes to the store every day and just likes getting treats and being petted,” Wyllie said. “It goes to show it’s really the owner who is responsible.”
Similar events were planned in Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg, as well as internationally.