Public input on pit bulls

Following the suspension of the city's pit bull ban, Montrealers weighed in on the future of animal control in the city in a series of public consultations that began Saturday.

The city's Projet Montreal administration lifted the pit bull ban in December, following through with an election promise to do away with the most controversial aspects of a 2016 bylaw, and promised to consult with citizens before tabling new legislation in May.

City councillor Craig Sauve said a central theme of the discussions has been the need for more education for dog owners.

"(Citizens) want to make sure owners are understanding that if they're going to have a dog or a cat, they have to be responsible and take care of their animal so it doesn't cause any anxiety or security risks," he said.

He said the city is also considering barring some people from pet ownership if they have a criminal background or past history of animal abuse.

At a consultation in the Plateau neighbourhood, about a dozen citizens offered suggestions including mandatory obedience classes, obligatory sterilization, microchip identification, tighter regulations on pet stores and simplifying the registration process.

Ben Jackson, a longtime pet owner, said he wants the city to focus on aggressive animals instead of ticketing responsible owners for minor infractions.

"I think the city has a terrible history of ignoring the real problems, and attacking people and animals that haven't done anything," he said.

Anjali Choksi, who owns two dogs and two cats, said she wants the new bylaw to set out how complaints will be handled.

She said she's been hesitant to call the city about troublesome dogs because she worries they'll be automatically euthanized.

"What's important is to have a framework that makes all the steps public," she said.

Fomer mayor Denis Coderre enacted the pit bull ban in 2016 after a 55-year-old Montreal woman died after a dog attack in her backyard.

The bylaw prevented people from buying or adopting new pit bull-type dogs and required existing dogs to be sterilized and muzzled in public.

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