Even though the Denver City Council voted 7-4 in February to end the city’s 31-year Pit Bull ban, Mayor Michael Hancock overruled their decision.
Even though breed-specific legislation (BSL) — unfair laws, including breed bans, that single out dogs only because of how they look — has proven to be ineffective in increasing public safety and expensive to enforce wherever it’s been enacted, Hancock still decided it was a good thing.
Denver’s Pit Bull ban is one of the most notorious in the world. It 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 surrendering 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.”
It’s telling that just about every major animal welfare organization, including the ASPCA, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), oppose BSL because it punishes the breed instead of the deed.
But not Hancock.
The mayor claimed he’d heard from “thousands of residents” about the end of the ban. He also claimed that he talked to “experts in veterinary care,” which is interesting since the AVMA, which is the largest veterinary care group in the United States, opposes BSL. “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,” he tweeted on Feb. 15.
Fortunately, Denver City Councilman Christopher Herndon, who proposed ending the Pit Bull ban, has kept the promise he made in February to introduce a ballot measure allowing voters to end the ban in November.
“I’m disappointed the mayor is choosing to disregard the science on the issue of breed-specific legislation,” Herndon said in a February 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.”
In a unanimous decision last night, the Denver City Council agreed to put a proposition to end the Pit Bull ban on the Nov. 3 ballot, 9News reports.
While voters could end the ban, there still would be special requirements for the owners of Pit Bulls and mixes. 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 requirements that single out certain dog breeds are still BSL (and B.S.), but removing the ban is an extremely important first step.
If you’re a registered voter in Denver, I urge you to vote to end the Pit Bull ban. You’ll not only be saving a lot of money but also the lives of countless innocent dogs.
Photo: Those were my first two Pitties, Sophie and Larry, enjoying a mind meld.