How can I describe what life has been like for me and my dog since Montreal’s Breed Specific Legislation has been on the table? Saying “It Sucks” does not embody the sleepless nights, anxiety, quality of life change. It can’t describe the defensiveness every time we leave the house. And it surely won’t describe the hours upon hours of research and struggling to understand the bylaw and keep my dog safe. It is as if every dog owner of a dog similar to a pit bull-type dog has been labeled a criminal. That our dogs are weapons that we are carrying around unconcealed.
My love for this type of wrongly criminalized dog (I won’t say pit bull to refer to any dog because there is no such thing as a pit bull breed. Pit bull is a term used to describe mixes of dogs who have similar physical characteristic, but there is no such thing as a pure bred pit bull) came when I fostered and fell in love with my first dog, Mya. I had a dog growing up for 14 years before her, but Mya was my first dog living alone.
My family is an animal loving family, from turtles to rabbits, cats to dogs. My grandfather was a veterinarian so I guess you could say our love and respect for animals is in our blood! Our first dog, Cody, was a lovely Labrador mix, who was the 6th child in our 5 children household, and we loved him dearly until he passed away peacefully in our home of old age. When I got Mya, I didn’t ask for any particular breed. I didn’t care what breed she was. I just offered my help as a foster and said that because I am a runner, a high energy dog would benefit most from my lifestyle. She was a thin mixed breed dog. Probably had some Labrador in her and some Staffordshire terrier. Either way, it didn’t matter. She very quickly became my best friend and we were absolutely inseparable.
Story of a Pit bull
Our arrangement quickly became what is known as a “foster fail” situation, from fostered pup to full-blown adoption for life. Mya ran half marathons with me, took 3 hour walks through the beautiful city of Montreal with me. Came on hikes with me. She was gentle and hyper and loving and affectionate and would not harm a fly and got along with even the most dog reactive dogs in my area. She was sweet and patient with my baby niece and with anyone on the street who wanted to pet her. I never saw her as anything other than what I knew to be true of her kind soul. I never imagined that anyone could be afraid of her simply because she had kind of a blockhead, that some people thought of her as a ‘pit bull’ and that she was a dangerous dog.
The Pit bull Stigma
Occasionally people would cross the street when the saw us coming. But the worst experience which seemed to start a trickle effect of events was one day at Jeanne Mance Park when a lady was letting her 3-year-old child pet Mya’s muzzle, some man came out of nowhere screaming bloody murder to get my vicious animal away from that small child before she killed him. I couldn’t believe it. From that day on, I knew it was Mya’s mission in life to prove people wrong. Sadly, after 3 amazing years of friendship, Mya was diagnosed with Lymphoma and passed away nearly the next day. She hid her illness so well from us until she couldn’t hide it any longer.
Mya passed away in June. The worst day of my life. By the end of the summer talks of Breed Specific Legislation in Montreal were in full swing. You could not adopt or ‘acquire’ in any way any pit bull type dog after October 4th. Even though I was still mourning Mya’s death, I knew I had to adopt a doomed dog as soon as possible, as large-scale euthanasia was eminent for any dog that resembled Mya in anyway. I spent time visiting shelters.
It was like a nightmare. The sad, lonely energy in shelters is something no living being should ever have to experience. Sadly, there seemed to be a high number of ‘pit bull’ type dogs in the shelters. I am sure this is partially owed to the fear-mongering in the media, as well the high cost and threats imposed by our elected officials if we owned a pit bull type dog. I met Malichi. He was a Mastiff looking mix, big and goofy, very poor coordination, bumping into anything and everything when he ran around. No back leg strength, possible from being caged too long since he was little.
Floppy lips and floppy ears, with an incredible tiger pattern coat that made me wonder if he was maybe half tiger!? He was harmless, a gentle giant. But because of had a large head, he was on the way out to be euthanized if someone did not step in to take him home. So I did just that.
Mali was bigger than Mya, and I got him right when the heat of the Breed Specific Legislation was all over the media and in the courtroom. The only physical similarity between the two was that they both had big heads. But Mali’s was even bigger than Mya’s. People were terrified of him. Not everyone. But a lot. From the first day home, I started experiencing altercations with complete strangers in the streets that I should put him down, that I should be walking him without a muzzle and that he is a danger to society. All these uninvited ‘conversations’ occurred while Mali rolled around in the grass, or while sniffed the pee left by a dog a few minutes prior. He had no clue what was going on, wasn’t displaying any negative behaviour whatsoever and was completely aloof. I only wish I had the same energy as him.
Breed Specific Legislation Confusion
When I first went to my vet with Mali after I adopted him, my vet said that Mali was clearly a mix of dogs, most likely he had a big amount of Mastiff in him, and maybe some Boxer. So we labeled him as Mastiff/Boxer Mix. According to the city’s law when it first came out (it actually still states this on their website), a veterinarian attestation of the dog’s breed identifying that dog as anything other than a pit bull meant you were safe with regards to the attack on pit bull type dogs.
I printed up a copy of this paper from my vet and kept it with me, feeling like I was being responsible and that Mali and I could live in peace from the canine Gestapo. Boy was I wrong. I had a very threatening run-in with Montreal’s canine patrol during a blizzard, where neither of the men patrollers exited their van, which they had stopped right in front of Mali and me, stopping us from being able to continue walking. It was as if we had just robbed a bank and they were the police there to catch us.
Breed Specific Legislation Criminalized Me
We were criminals. No eye contact made. Simply orders from the patrollers to prove my dogs breed. I offered the vet papers which were apparently not satisfying, and they left me after a good 10 minutes of interrogating me while they were nice and warm, and Mali and I were freezing, telling me that the city would contact me to be sure my dog was not a pit bull type dog. Despite my vet attestation, that was supposedly enough. I complained to the city Ombudsman, I had several responses from different people, all contradictory. Some saying the vet papers were sufficient, and some saying that they weren’t and that I should register with the city-run identification clinics, where someone would assess my dog based on his appearance to determine if he fits the city’s description of a pit bull or not.
I tried to make an appointment. I waited weeks, even over a month, for a reply. When I got a response, there was no room left in the clinics, and the person even took the time to write that if my dog already had vet papers, that I was wasting time trying to go to the city offered I.D. clinics. Rumors were circulating that city patroller could confiscate our dogs on the spot if they did not agree with the vet papers. Things were getting frightening as March 31st approached (March 31st was when the law was to come into full effect).
Fears Associated with Breed Specific Legislation
Would I have to fight a patroller who might try and take my dog?? Would I have to try and outrun him? Could they break into my house?? Why is this happening?!?!?! My dog never harmed anyone or anything!! He is a great, sweet, playful and goofy dog!!! Why is he being deemed guilty without any chance of being found innocent?? Because of the shape of his head??? How is this possible!?!?!? What can I do to protect my dog??!! I haven’t been able to enjoy walks with him. I know that there is a high chance of a run in with the patrollers, I know there’s a chance of our walk being ruined by some ignorant person yelling at us, I can’t bring him to the dog parks that he loves and is always one of the sweetest dogs there because of how he looks. This is pure madness!!!
So saying “it sucks” is not good enough to describe the life for Mali and I. A life created by false information, fear mongering and lies by the government and by the media. The fact that pit bull type dogs account for only 1 % of dog bites has no impact on the illogical insanity ensuing in this city!!! No one seems to care about the truth!! The media is largely to blame. But so is the government for ignoring mountains of professional research and facts against the effectiveness and truth behind Breed Specific Legislation.
To Be or Not to Be Pit bull
Mali was assessed by the city’s evaluator at my cost just before the deadline as clearly NOT PIT BULL. I had to pay because there was no room left at the city-run clinics (they had promised to offer 100 hours but only offered 50 in the end). I have some relief because, despite many people’s perception of him, I have documentation by the only trusted source by the city saying he is not a dangerous dog. But even I know it is bullshit. Because for the people who didn’t get one of the coveted spots to have their dog evaluated by the city or those that did but their dog was found to be ‘pit bull’, they are now living in a state of constant fear and ostracization.
Breed Specific Legislation Isolation
They won’t be able to bring their dog to the dog park to run around and play with other dogs. Not to mention the thousands of dogs who will be abandoned by their owners because they cannot afford the high cost to register a pit bull. The thousands of puppies who will be killed because they have big heads and therefore are not suitable family dogs (bullshit).
Not everyone is a dog person. I believe that is because they never had the chance to get well acquainted with a dog. But I get that not everyone loves dogs. Not everyone loves children either but we do not ban them when there are a few bad ones!! Dogs are family to those of us who have them. We are not dog owners, but more like dog parents. If we should not judge a human based on looks (I know that sadly society still does), then it should not be legal by any means to judge a dog based on his/her looks.
Breed Specific Legislation is Ruining Lifes!
Breed Specific Legislation in Montreal has ruined the quality of life for many pet lovers. Many of us are strong and will stick by our pets no matter the outcome!! But some people will abandon their pets out of fear of what would happen if they keep them.
Many cannot afford the costs to keep their loved ones!! This entire experience has not only left me disgusted in many of our elected officials, but it has created a very strong distrust in governments in general. They overlook facts and act as power-tripping bullies. The most important point of everything related to Breed Specific Legislation is that it is not based on facts. It is created to provide a false sense of security. The Breed Specific Legislation has been proven ineffective and that it ruins the lives of many people and dogs!