People like me who have spent years advocating for the end of breed-specific legislation (BSL) — unfair laws, including breed bans, that single out dogs only because of how they look — were overjoyed earlier this week with the news that the Denver City Council had voted 7-4 to end the city’s 30-year Pit Bull ban.
Finally! It was so encouraging that the city officials of Denver, whose ban was one of the world’s most notorious, had realized BSL does not increase public safety. It’s also a big waste of money, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce. All BSL effectively does is punish well-behaved dogs and responsible dog owners.
But cancel those party plans. In a letter to the Denver City Council yesterday, Mayor Michael Hancock decided he could not “in good conscience support this legislation.” He claimed he’d heard from “thousands of residents” about the end of the ban. (And you can bet he heard from the hate group behind DogsBite.org, a website founded by a dog bite victim who wants all Pit Bulls destroyed.
Hancock claimed he talked to experts in veterinary care. That’s interesting, because the largest veterinary care group in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, opposes BSL because it’s unfair and ineffective.
I have heard from thousands of residents passionately expressing their opinions on both sides of this issue. After deep reflection and consideration, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation and will exercise my authority as Mayor to veto it. pic.twitter.com/I5pnhM7elV
— Michael B. Hancock (@MayorHancock) February 15, 2020
Although the Pit Bull ban could have been lifted, there still would have been special requirements for the owners of Pit Bulls, mixes and dogs that happen to look like Pit Bulls. The owners would have had to register their dogs with Denver Animal Protection, obtain a breed-restricted license, and have no more than two Pit Bulls.
Yes, these regulations singling out these dogs are still BSL (and B.S.), but removing the ban would have been an important, positive step.
A one-hour courtesy public hearing has started for an amendment to the Denver Revised Municipal Code requiring a provisional breed-restricted license for owners of pit bulls. Pit bulls are currently prohibited in #Denver. #PitBulls #NoPitBulls pic.twitter.com/ZqXwC2KaKB
— Denver City Council (@DenCityCouncil) February 11, 2020
“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,” Hancock wrote in his letter. “I have concluded that it would pose an increased risk.”
It would really be helpful to know what, if any, facts led the mayor to this decision. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), for example, states that it’s unaware that BSL makes communities safer for children or adults.
Denver’s Pit Bull ban was enacted in 1989 after a 3-year-old boy wandered into his neighbor’s yard and was fatally attacked by an unspayed Pit Bull who was chained to a carport, according to the Denver Post. Three years earlier, another of the owner’s dogs had bitten an 8-year-old boy. Because of that one irresponsible owner 30 years ago, thousands of Denver residents have had to make the terrible choice of finding a new home for themselves or their beloved dogs, or relinquishing their pets to the city to be euthanized.
“Breed bans usually come on the heels of a fatal dog attack, a knee-jerk reaction by city and county officials that might pacify a community for a while, but doesn’t do a thing to keep communities safer,” notes the Best Friends Animal Society. “It’s much easier to institute breed bans than to look at what caused those attacks.”
The potential good news is that Denver Councilman Christopher Herndon, who proposed ending the Pit Bull ban, promised he will introduce a ballot measure allowing voters to end the ban next November.
“I’m disappointed the mayor is choosing to disregard the science on the issue of breed-specific legislation,” Herndon said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “Research tells us breed-specific legislation is ineffective at keeping communities safe and experts in the field — from the local level to the national level — agree it is no longer best practice.”
So, Denver voters, please do the right thing in November and end your city’s unfair Pit Bull ban. You’ll not only be saving a lot of money but also the lives of countless dogs.