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Denver City Council Votes to End 30-Year Ban on Pit Bulls

Denver City Council Votes to End 30-Year Ban on Pit Bulls

The Denver City Council voted on Monday to repeal a law against pit bulls, which would allow dog lovers the right to keep the animals within city limits after a 30-year ban. The new rules would go into effect in May if signed into law by Mayor Michael Hancock. Owners would be required to apply for a breed-restricted license and register their pit bull with Denver Animal Protection.

Pit bulls have long been maligned as attack dogs and fighters too hostile to live in proximity to humans. According to National Pit Bill Victim Awareness, a campaign to protect the victims of pit bull attacks, more than 900 cities in the United States have legislation related specifically to dog breeds.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has stated, though, that it was not aware of evidence that breed-specific laws made communities safer for humans or their pets. Dogs categorized as “pit bulls” most often include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and other mixed breeds.

Pit bulls were banned in the city and county of Denver in August 1989. Under the proposed Denver rules, owners would need to provide proof of microchipping, vaccination and neutering or spaying, as well as the name and address of the dog and two emergency contacts. Pit bulls would be limited to two per home. Owners would notify Denver Animal Protection if the dog escaped, bit a human or died. If there were no incidents after three years, pit bull owners could apply for a regular dog license.

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Pit bulls were bred for fighting, trained as attack dogs or used on ranches as livestock wranglers. Dog fighting is illegal in the United States, although underground fighting operations persist. In 2007, Michael Vick, then a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, pleaded guilty to a felony after a dog fighting ring was discovered on a piece of property he owned. He was charged with funding a gambling operation and being involved in the killing of at least six to eight dogs.

Because of the pit bull’s reputation, cities have sought to ban ownership in populated areas. In recent years, though, residents have asked local governments to relax the rules. Last year, a petition was filed on Change.org to repeal Colorado laws banning the owning of pit bulls. So far, there are more than 550 signatures.

In November, the City Council of Sioux City, Iowa, agreed to end its 11-year ban on pit bulls and pit bull mixes. “The pit bull community is very happy to see it overturned,” Gregory Giles, an owner of four pit bulls, told Iowa Public Radio last year. (He lived outside of town.) The new rules took effect in December.

Earlier this month, the City Council in Prairie Village, Kan., voted to repeal its ban on pit bulls.


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