As cities and counties across the country repeal breed-specific laws banning pit bulls, Denver and its largest neighbor, Aurora, are now on different trajectories with their bans.
Denver City Council cemented a measure Monday that will ask voters in November whether to repeal the city’s long-standing pit bull ban, replacing it with a type of restricted license. Aurora City Council rejected a similar ballot measure Monday in favor of strengthening current aggressive animal laws before trying to repeal the ban.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimated in 2017 that some 900 cities across the country have some form of breed-specific legislation, but many are beginning to reverse course. Similar bans were repealed recently in the Kansas City metro area and Sioux City, Iowa, among other places. In addition, Castle Rock’s Town Council repealed its ban in 2018.
Denver Councilman Chris Herndon’s proposed repeal passed the City Council earlier this year, but it was vetoed by Mayor Michael Hancock.
All the while, Aurora residents and officials have been having similar conversations.
The talks are often emotional, peppered with those who have suffered from dog attacks or known someone who has. Even Hancock has said he was bitten by a pit bull as a child.
But there are others who, while understanding the trepidation, argue that the data shows the breed-specific laws aren’t effective and have historically even been used to target communities of color.
When he voted for Herndon’s first repeal attempt this year, Councilman Jolon Clark said he had concerns about the move but he couldn’t ignore the data that veterinarians and other experts had shown him in support of the repeal.
Now the decision is up to Denver voters. If they approve the repeal, city officials will effectively create a restricted license for pit bulls. If owners — limited to two pit bulls per home — pay a higher fee than is required for other dogs, maintain appropriate paperwork and have no issues for three years, then the restriction would be removed.
Aurora will move much slower, if it repeals its ban at all.
A ballot measure had been proposed for Colorado’s third-largest city, but the City Council there shot it down Monday on a 7-3 vote. Instead, the group will consider a proposal to strengthen the city’s existing dangerous dog laws, which would offer municipal judges more flexibility in handling attack cases, said Nancy Sheffield, interim director of housing and community services.
The council will see how well that law works, if it’s approved, before determining whether to place a measure to repeal the city’s pit bull ban on the 2021 ballot at the earliest.