Denver’s 30-year ban on owning a pit bull has been upheld by Mayor Michael Hancock who, after a 7-4 vote by the city council in favor of repealing the ban, vetoed the measure.
In a letter to the council, Hancock stated that he heard from thousands of Denver residents and animal experts and could not “in good conscience support this legislation.”
“At the end of the day, I must ask whether passage of this ordinance would make our homes and neighborhoods safer or pose an increased risk to public safety? I have concluded that it would pose an increased risk,” the letter read.
A number of pit bull advocates actually supported the mayor’s veto. Sara Ondrako, founder of the American Pit Bill Foundation, told ABC News that the ordinance was a “step in the right direction,” but could “still lead to a very discriminatory persuasion of pit bull type dogs.”
The ordinance would have required the owners of pit bull-type dogs to register with Denver Animal Protection, and obtain a “breed-restricted license” for their animals. It would have also limited residents to no more than two dogs of such type.
As Hancock maintains, “less than 20% of all pets in Denver are currently licensed, which raises significant questions about the effectiveness of this proposed new system.”
“The problem has never been the dogs, it is and has always been irresponsible dog ownership,” Ondrako said. “The issue has absolutely nothing to do with the breed of the animal as researched and confirmed by experts in the field such as the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the Center for Disease Control, the American Kennel Club, the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and even the American Pit Bull Foundation.”
Several other cities in Colorado, including Lone Tree, Louisville and Commerce City, also have bans on pit bulls. According to the ASPCA, these laws enforce the stigma of naturally aggressive dogs and further the misconception that the public is best served by such restrictions.
“Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is the blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals. However, the problem of dangerous dogs will not be remedied by the “quick fix” of breed-specific laws—or, as they should truly be called, breed-discriminatory laws,” the ASPCA claims.
Some states have put breed-indiscriminate systems in place to identify, track and regulate dangerous dogs individually, targeting only those dogs who have demonstrated aggressiveness toward humans. However, at least 700 cities in the United States, Denver included, still have BSL laws, the ASPCA reports.
“There is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals,” the ASPCA website states. “Following a thorough study of human fatalities resulting from dog bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to strongly oppose BSL. The CDC cited, among other problems, the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty in identifying dog breeds (especially true of mixed-breed dogs). Breed-specific laws are also costly and difficult to enforce.”
Learn more about this issue in the video below, and scroll further down to see how you can stand up for pit bulls.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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