A ban on new ownership of pit bull or pit bull-type dogs went into effect on Monday, Oct. 3 in Montreal, Canada. Those in the city of four million people who already own the banned dogs are required to obtain a special permit by Dec. 31 in order to keep their pet. Pit bulls would also have to be muzzled when in public.
There has been strong opposition to this and other changes to the city’s animal control laws, changes which have been made following a fatal dog attack that killed a 55-year-old Montreal woman, Christiane Vadnais four months ago. The final city council vote on the measure was 37-23 in favor of the ban which affects all 19 of Montreal’s boroughs. Pit bulls are already banned in several municipalities in Quebec and in the province of Ontario.
According to cbc.ca/news/Canada, supporters of the ban contend the new regulations give human safety priority over dog safety. They claim that pit bull bans in other jurisdictions have decreased the number of severe dog bites. The city had originally intended to update its legislation concerning dangerous dogs by 2018, but plans were accelerated following the death. Authorities are still waiting for DNA test results on the dog that attacked and killed Vadnais in her backyard. The animal was originally identified as a pit bull and was killed by police at the scene of the attack. (The dog did not belong to the victim.)
Opponents of the ban, among them the Opposition Projet Montreal and the SPCA, question whether the new rules can be enforced and claim the problem would be better handled by enforcing current laws, cbc.ca reported. The opponents accuse the city administration of “taking a member of the family” with the new bylaw. A coalition against the ban, said to include experts in animal behavior, plans to launch a court challenge to the new laws which they call “vague and imprecise” and “discriminatory” and contrary to Quebec’s animal welfare laws.
The advocates point out that many cities which have implemented similar legislation have since repealed it. Some charge the ban was a political move fueled by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
What The New Law Mandates
Other parts of the new law which are objectionable include a plan to euthanize dogs designated as “dangerous;” permit requirements for all cats and dogs; new laws on the number of animals a person living in Montreal can own; new regulations on licenses and leash length; and mandatory spaying, neutering and micro-chipping of all dogs by Dec. 31, 2019. (Registered breeders and dogs with medical exceptions would be exempt.)
In the new Montreal legislation a “pit bull” is defined as a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American pit bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier, any mix with these breeds, or any dog that presents characteristics of one of these breeds.
Statistics on Dog Bite Fatalities
Despite the fierce support for pit bulls, they remain at the top of most lists in which dogs are cited as the cause of human fatalities. DogsBite.org is one group that keeps statistics on dog bite fatalities on its website. The group claims 34 people in the U.S. were victims of a dog bite fatality in 2015 and that pit bulls contributed to 82% of the deaths, or 28 of the fatalities. Rottweilers accounted for three deaths, according to DogsBite. Criminal charges resulted in only 9% of the fatal attacks, according to the organization.
Over an 11-year period from 2005 to 2015, pit bulls were responsible for 64.4% of the fatal attacks on humans, according to the website.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also published nearly 20 years of collected data which indicated pit bulls were the dog most likely to bite humans. The CDC acknowledged it was not privy to all dog-bite fatality reports for the period researched. The study said pit bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 67% of the deaths. The CDC did a second study of dog attacks from September 1982 to December 2012 and found pit bulls caused 200 human deaths and many incidences of bodily harm.
In a dog bite fatality study by the American Veterinary Medical Association for the years 2000-2009, it was found that the failure of an able-bodied person to intervene in an attack was the main reason for dog bite fatalities. It was also found that the victim having no familiar relationship with the dog or being unable to form such a relationship (due to mental or other disabilities) was another relevant factor. Failure to neuter, and owner neglect, mismanagement, or abuse of the animal were also major factors in dog attack incidents, the AVMA said. Of the 401 fatal dog attacks studied using law enforcement reports, animal control reports and investigator statements, only 18% provided a reliable verification of the dog breed, the AVMA noted.
Are There Pit Bull Bans in Ohio?
In May 2012, the state of Ohio passed a law which ended automatically classifying pit bulls, or any other dog, as “vicious” or “dangerous.” Local laws can still be passed that ban specific breeds or mixes of those breeds. Ohio ranks ninth highest of the 50 states in pit bull fatalities, according to DogsBite.org. Their data goes back to 1878 and goes through 2015.
A total of 104 Ohio municipalities and villages have breed-specific laws concerning the pit bull and a few other dogs, primarily Presa Canarios and American Bulldogs. Twenty-nine communities have banned the dogs outright and another 65 designate them as “vicious.” A “vicious” dog is any dog that, without provocation, kills or seriously injures a person. This does not include police dogs in their official duties, or if someone is attempting to commit a criminal offense on the property of the dog’s owner.
Five Ohio communities automatically designate a pit bull as “dangerous.” In Ohio, this is any dog that, without provocation, injures a person or kills another dog. Again, this does not apply to police dogs acting in their official capacity. Five other Ohio communities place lesser restrictions on pit bulls and other types of dogs.
Are Pit Bulls an Identifiable Breed?
Pit bull advocates have long contended there is no such thing as a pit bull breed and that only a DNA test reveals a dog’s heritage. DogsBite.org takes exception citing several high court opinions which have ruled a pit bull has distinctive traits and no expert knowledge is necessary to identify one.
The website quotes several court cases which challenged the constitutionality of the identification of the pit bull breed and cites an Ohio Supreme Court 1991 decision Ohio v. Anderson (57 Ohio St. 3d 168) which said: “Pit bull dogs possess unique and readily identifiable physical and behavioral traits which are capable of recognition by dog owners of ordinary intelligence.”
It also references a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Tellings v. Toledo which was a rejection of an appeal filed in a 2007 Ohio Supreme Court ruling (Toledo v. Tellings (871 N.E. 2d 1152)). The 2007 ruling upheld a Toledo ordinance singling out pit bulls as posing a serious danger to the safety of citizens. It rejected all four Constitutional arguments brought in defense by the canine owner including lack of procedural due process, lack of substantive due process, failure to provide equal protection of the law and designation of the dog as “void for vagueness.”
Much controversy remains about Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and other issues with pit bulls and other dogs. Some communities have repealed pit bull bans, but the movement has not been massive.
Do You Need Legal Help?
When a child shows up in court wearing a prosthetic arm due to a dog attack, everyone in the courtroom can see that such an attack can be a very serious thing. When someone’s life has been diminished both physically and emotionally by the negligence of a dog owner, this is grounds for action.
Every year more than 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog. One in five of them receive injury severe enough to require medical treatment. Half of those bitten are between five and nine years old and those even younger are often victims too. About 30,000 people need reconstructive surgery each year as a result of dog bite injuries.
Our law firm has a team of experienced legal professionals dedicated to helping those who have been the victims of dog attacks. We have made insurance companies pay thousands of dollars when the dogs of homeowners they insured caused serious injury.
If you or someone in your family has been attacked by a dog, please contact our firm for a free and private legal consultation by calling 1-888-998-9101, chatting with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send a message from our website.
The statute of limitations (time you have to file a lawsuit) for a dog bite injury is six years in Ohio. In the case of a minor, the six years begins on the child’s 18th birthday. Although it may seem as though you have a lot of time to act, it is never a good idea to delay. Important witnesses may be lost and people tend to forget the details of an incident as time passes.
You do not want to be pressured about filing a law suit. That is understandable, and we will not do that. However, you do need to find out about any rights you have to be compensated for your injuries.