Montreal moves to ban calèches, tightens animal welfare laws

As part of the new rules, horse-drawn carriages will be banned in Montreal.
As part of the new rules, horse-drawn carriages will be banned in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The horse-drawn calèches that are a fixture in Old Montreal will be prohibited across the city as of 2020, following years of debate between animal welfare advocates and owners.

“We see there have been a lot of cases of horses being mistreated, horses dying while doing their calèche activities,” City of Montreal Councillor Craig Sauvé said.

“We promised in the campaign to put an end to this industry, and we’re giving them a year and a half to adjust and we think that’s enough time.”

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The city introduced the ban in an announcement Thursday, saying the deadline will give drivers a chance to adjust to the new reality.

While the city has cracked down on the activity in recent years, Sauvé said there continues to be “unfortunate accidents” involving horse-drawn carriages.

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READ MORE: Calèche horse collapses in Old Port of Montreal

The clip clap of horse hooves dragging wooden calèches have echoed throughout the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal for years — but animal rights activists have long condemned the practice, saying it is unsafe for the horses.

The Montreal SPCA was quick to applaud the city’s decision, saying Montreal was following in the footsteps of other cities by putting an end to the “antiquated and inhumane industry.”

“The end of this industry represents an important victory for our organization, and demonstrates just how much our relationship with animals is evolving,” said Alanna Devine, the director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, in a statement.

READ MORE: Calèche horse, car collide in Griffintown, sparking debate over safety

Revamped animal-control bylaw

The city also presented its revamped animal-control bylaw Thursday, six months after overturning the previous administration’s ban on pit bull-type dogs.

The move also comes one week after the Quebec government announced it would be scrapping its own provincial breed-specific legislation, saying there was no consensus on whether breed-specific bans are safer for the population.

READ MORE: Quebec won’t go ahead with ban on pit bull-type dogs

While Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s administration revoked the bylaw in December, the city’s new bylaw does not target a specific breed but clamps down on potentially dangerous dogs.

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“The best practices across the world show it’s impossible to identify a dog (breed) visually,” Sauvé said.

“You have to have a comprehensive approach, and that’s what we’re proposing here, to look at all dogs that are aggressive and not target one breed.”

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Under the bylaw, dogs that attempt to bite or attack someone will have to undergo an evaluation. As it stands, only dogs that successfully bite someone are subject to that rule.

Any dog that is involved in an altercation or shows signs of aggression must wear a muzzle, be kept on a short leash away from children, and be evaluated by a behavioural expert to determine whether it should be euthanized, or whether the owner should abide by strict conditions.

READ MORE: Montreal moves to reform controversial pit bull-type breed ban

Owners of these potentially dangerous dogs must be over the age of 18, and cannot have been convicted of an animal-related or violent crime.

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Dogs weighing more than 20 kilograms are also required to wear a harness or leash.

New measures for animal welfare

Under the bylaw, all dogs, cats and rabbits must be sterilized as of January 2020. This regulation also applies to animals up for adoption at shelters.

Pet shop owners will also be required to sell only rescue animals as of July 2019.

In an effort to boost animal welfare, the new rules also ban pet owners from using spike or electric-shock collars on their dogs.

with files from the Canadian Press