Sunday, March 8, 2009

It depends on how you define success

These are the words of Denver Animal Control director Doug Kelley on whether Denver's pit bull ban has been effective.

The logic behind a breed ban is, in theory, to reduce dog bites and improve public safety. Or, as Kory Nelson, the attorney who championed the Denver pit bull ban, says, it is to eliminate/reduce pit bull deaths and maulings (he also claims that opponents of BSL are actually dog fighters). Denver has not had a serious pit bull mauling since they implemented a ban nearly 20 years ago. Before the ban, there wasn't a huge spike in pit bull maulings and the same held true after the ban. It's a logical fallacy to claim that the unenforced ban had something to do with the non-change.

Besides, a recent survey has shown that dog bites still occur and that pit bulls are 2nd as far as breed is concerned. Labrador Retriever were the most reported breed for bites.

So what has been the winning successes of the breed ban?

Between 2005-2007, the breed ban did cost the lives of nearly 2,000 dogs; dogs who may or may not have been pit bulls. It has increased litigation costs associated with the few willing to challenge authorities on the veracity of their dog's breed. It costs the city more to enforce a breed ban, meaning valuable resources - like animal control officers - are being used to track down suspect, non-threatening dogs while possibly ignoring valid threats from loose, aggressive non pit bull dogs.

So yes, I suppose it does depend on how you define success. Killing dogs based on looks, increased costs of enforcement, lack of reducing dog bites, inability to eliminate pit bulls or pit bull does not sound like an animal control model I would want to emulate. So why does Denver stick to their guns when they are so clearly in the wrong? They keep repeating the same rhetoric, enforcing the same, ineffective law and keep hoping for a different result - repeating the same thing over and over again, hoping for something different to happen, is the definition of insanity. And that is exactly what Denver's pit bull ban is, insane.

Note: I removed a portion of this post regarding the efficacy of enforcing or not enforcing the ban. You can see some of the reasons why in the comment section.


EmilyS said...

Well, I hate to tell you this, but Denver WAS enforcing its ban before 2005. They always enforced it... In fact you had to get a permit even to drive through the city. A couple of us tried to start a project to convince the City Council to listen to reason, as the members that passed the ban were being grandfathered out, but we didn't get past one initial meeting.

The city only stopped enforcing it during the last litigation and then resumed, perhaps even more avidly when they won (except the part about transit permits, which are no longer required). That's when the huge "backlog" of "pit bulls" that had come into the city during the non-enforcement period was slaughtered.

Rinalia said...

Hey EmilyS,

I based my info on a couple things:
- Impoundment data, which one could probably argue from both ends. Impoundment of pit bulls did not dramatically increase until the early 2000s. And after the major spike in 2005, impoundments have decreased steadily since then.
-Kill rates differ a bit too, with more pit bulls killed after the "re-ban" went into effect (at least from 2005-2007) than, at the very least, between 1999-2003.
- Anecdata from residents who I know from Denver (who own non pit bulls) claimed that it wasn't enforced very well, that there were still a lot of pit bulls in the neighborhoods where they lived. Which I do take as it is.

Now perhaps they were simply ineffective in enforcing the ban and somehow became more so after the publicity of the 2005 lawsuit.

I don't know, and if there is other evidence to support that they were active and effective in their efforts to enforce the ban, I will modify my entry to reflect that.

EmilyS said...

Couple of things: existing "pit bulls" were grandfathered in under the original law, so Denver law enforcement couldn't go to people's homes seizing them. they only had to kill the smaller number of stray/unclaimed ones. So of course the kill numbers were smaller in the first 10 years or so of the ban. But they certainly DID target pit bulls they could identify as "illegal". Here's an email exchange I had with AKC in 2001:

> >>> "Emily S..." 12/05/01 01:11PM >>>
>Hi Sharon, you commented that you haven't had a problem.
>Here's an experience that UKC had... Denver animal control DOESNT just go
>after "bad guys" with "pit bulls":
>"Last year, we received a phone call from a young woman in tears. She had
>just accepted a new job in Denver and was walking her two UKC-registered
>American Pit Bull Terriers on a sidewalk. Both dogs were wearing collars
>leashes. Neither dog was misbehaving in any way. Suddenly, a truck pulled
>next to her and two Animal Control Officers took her dogs from her and
>her a ticket. She had to go to court, pay a fine and court costs and move
>out of the city or her dogs would be put to sleep."
>Emily S

I got involved about 2000; people were telling me that Denver was killing 300+ "pit bulls" back then, and the Colorado Federation started again addressing the issue at that time. You can do a search of the Denver Post archives: There's one from April 2004 that references 410 "pit bulls" killed.

Of course the numbers have increased post re-instatement, because Denver is avidly killing anything it can call a "pit bull" to decrease the number of dogs in its shelter, in an appalling and disgusting way. That's why the kill numbers go into the 1000's. You KNOW that many/most of these dogs have little or no APBT/AST/SBT blood in them.

But numbers are only the cold statistical part of the picture. The most horrible part is Denver harassing people and seizing OWNED dogs who have never been in trouble (and which may not even be "pit bulls"). Just to focus on numbers as the measure that the "ban was not previously enforced" really doesn't capture the vicious cruelty of their policy, then and now..

Rinalia said...

Hey EmilyS,

I think your last sentence hits the point home most effectively. I'll work out my post and remove that portion of it.

EmilyS said...

Thanks, R. I think the new version expresses very effectively what is so horrific about Denver's policy. I'm baffled that a whole city, especially one that claims to be dog-friendly, could continue to support such vicious cruelty. The City Council, the Denver Post and the whole power structure has absolutely dug in its heels. It's gotten so bad that Doug Kelley is now the voice of reason. I have some evidence that he's never really liked the policy, but holds his job more dear (or perhaps believes he's more effective biding his time to get changes)