Animal rescue groups in Atlantic Canada are rallying to find new homes on the East Coast for pitbull-type dogs they say may now face euthanasia in Montreal.
The transport of the canines along the Trans-Canada Highway is coming in response to a Montreal city council vote in favour of a new bylaw that bans new pit bull-type dogs and places restrictions on those currently in the city.
Anthony Carter, director of the Halifax-based Pawsability Rescue Society, said Thursday he's fearful that in many instances the ban will lead to the dogs being put down by their owners.
"We put a couple of messages out saying we're looking for additional foster homes for pit breeds from the Montreal area ... basically to save their lives," he said in an interview on Thursday.
As of next Tuesday the bylaw makes it illegal to own any new pit bull-type dog — a list that includes American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers — or any dogs mixed with those breeds or that bear similar physical characteristics.
Grandfathered dogs must be registered by the end of the year and owners will have to be screened for a criminal record. They must also provide proof the dog has been sterilized, micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies.
Pit bulls will have to be muzzled outdoors and kept on a short leash with few exceptions.
Carter said he fears that the new rules will lead to many dogs either being abandoned or brought to veterinarians' offices to be euthanized even though they're in good health.
After he placed a notice on his organization's Facebook page seeking homes for the dogs, he and two other volunteers received about 200 messages offering homes to the dogs.
"It's been very busy," he said, adding he and the volunteers will now screen the applicants to ensure they're suitable owners.
The shipping of the dogs to the East Coast is also being organized by Transports without Borders, based in Saint John, N.B.
The group arranges for the canines to be driven by car and truck drivers who pass the dogs from one front seat to another in a relay-like system from Montreal to various homes in the Atlantic provinces.
Shelley Cunningham, who operates the Litters'n Critters rescue society in Halifax, said that she is bringing three pit bulls to Nova Scotia on Saturday.
"The three dogs we have coming down were set to be euthanized," she said. "We're going to get them fixed and vetted and then adopted by the proper family."
She said she'll assess how the first few dogs work out and will decide whether more dogs from Montreal will be shipped east after the initial placements.
Cunningham said well-intentioned groups should be cautious about adopting too many of the dogs at once.
"A reputable rescue society will not take more than they can handle. They have to work within their comfort zone," she said.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has said the law is balanced and was drafted with safety in mind following several dog attacks, including one last June that resulted in the death of a 55-year-old woman in her backyard.
City councillors quoted Montreal statistics that suggest pit bull-type dogs accounted for nearly 38 per cent of dog bites in the past 21 months — 137 out of 426 reported cases.
However, both Cunningham and Carter said bans on specific breeds are ineffective, as usually the behavioural issues are caused by bad owners.