Thursday, April 8, 2010

Denver Continues to Spend Thousands on Ineffective Pit Bull Ban

In 2008, Coco, a mixed breed dog was killed by Denver animal services. He was identified as having 11 of the 25 physical markers of a Pit Bull. Two of the three animal control officers responsible for sentencing dogs who look like Pit Bulls to death agreed the dog was enough Pit Bull to warrant a death sentence. One animal control officer disagreed. Coco had been confiscated once and his owners given a chance to relocate the dog. When the owners found out Coco had ended up in a subpar home, they reclaimed their dog. Unfortunately, enforcing breed specific legislation hinges upon neighbors turning against neighbors and police/animal control going door to door and taking people's pets. Coco was confiscated a second time. At the time, Pit Bulls in Denver get one chance. If they are caught a second time, no matter whether they were taken from their own home or confiscated while being walked by a petrified owner - well, before Coco, these dogs were always executed.

But then came Forrest. Forrest was also seized twice by Denver animal control. But unlike Coco, Forrest received an extraordinary amount of press coverage. Suddenly Denver animal services was once again in the spotlight wanting to kill a beloved, nonviolent family pet.

So even though Coco had been killed three weeks prior to Forrest's second confiscation, the publicity created by Forrest's story ended in the dog being shipped out of state to be placed.

Denver changed its evaluation policy (in light of Coco and Forrest) - all three animal control officers need to concur on a dog's Pit Bull-ness now and Pit Bull owners now have an opportunity to place their dogs outside of Denver, even after a second seizure.

Coco's owner sued the city and was awarded $5,000. The city spent $15,000 in December 2009 and January 2010 fighting cases related to the Pit Bull ban.

Denver has killed nearly 4,000 dogs since it implemented its ban, most occurring in the past five or six years. More provocative is this fact: Denver has one of the highest rates of dog bite related hospitalizations than any city in Colorado. Places without breed specific legislation have lower rates of dog bite related hospitalization. Some claim that Denver spends nearly $250,000 a year enforcing its Pit Bull ban.

What slays me is that council members seem to think this law is working (with one notable exception). They refuse to relax the law or eliminate it outright. Even though Pit Bulls still bite. Even though other dogs still bite. Even though Denver residents are more likely to be hospitalized by a dog than neighboring cities. Even though tens of thousands of dollars are being spent on court cases and enforcement in a city that could use a little extra money. Even though thousands of nonviolent, family pets have been killed instead of thousands of violent, aggressive dogs I assume the law was targeted at killing. That's the rub about BSL - it kills more nonviolent, family pets than it does dangerous, aggressive dogs. Is that something for which Denver should be proud?

2 comments:

Ashley (the mom), Dixie (the Catahoula) and sometimes Lola (the Pit Bull) said...

Ugh. This ban and all the others like it are ridiculous. Dixie (who is a full, legal service dog and a Catahoula) do not go anywhere with BSL because she has a square head and big chest and could be seized by stupid laws like this. I know a lot of other SD handlers with non-bully looking breeds avoid these places as well so they don't support cities who would seize an SD because of how they look. Never mind that my pet dog Lola is probably the least aggressive thing in the world (seriously...my Mom's 6 lb doxie mix bosses her around).

Not sure if you've seen this article or not : http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2010/03/pit_bull_ban_disabled_vietnam.php

Me said...

I would love to see the 'breed identification specialists' of Denver try to identify dogs from a lineup based on lists of breed characteristics without telling them what the breeds being described are. That is, after all, what the law requires them to do.

The core misperception that all BSL is based on is breed ID. People have no idea how sloppy, how subjective, and how incredibly biased it really is.