The White House denounced dog breed-specific legislation, such as Denver's ban on pit bulls, as “a bad idea” in a statement last month. So, how will the edict from Washington impact Denver?
Not at all—at least for now.
The White House statement, which was in response to a petition calling for the federal prohibition of such laws, was more of an empty threat than an indication of any potential federal action against dog laws like Denver’s—but it does reflects a rising trend against breed-specific legislation.
Colorado is one of several states to outlaw breed-specific legislation, but Denver’s home rule gives the town immunity to statewide enforcement on municipal issues. Though the topic seems a bit obsolete—the ban receives consistent pushback, but has never been repealed and isn’t currently on Denver City Council’s agenda—one thing is for certain: Denverites' aren't short on opinions when it comes to their dogs.
The White House statement says that “research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources,” and encourages a “community-based approach to prevent dog bites.” Denver Councilman Christopher Herndon, who is against breed-specific legislation, agrees, and says that “any dog can bite, and the research has demonstrated now that breed specific legislation doesn’t address the underlying issue—which is irresponsible ownership.” Denver Councilman Charlie Brown is a proponent of the ban, and says that it "saves lives," and "the key issue is the breed was trained to fight, and when they bite they don’t let go".
The Denver Animal Shelter (DAS) uses a 53-point system to identify the breed by physical traits. If a dog meets half, or 27, of those points—such as jaw, ear, and tail size—the owner is given a chance to take the dog outside city limits or DAS takes possession of the canine, according to Megan Hughes, communications director for Denver Environmental Health, the umbrella organization to DAS. Critics' often take issue with the confusing enforcement of the ban. “Twenty-seven, it’s a pit, but 26 is not? How effective can it be?” Herndon says.
The future for the controversial, feared, and beloved breed may be unknown in Denver—a city where the residents and their canine companions go hand-in-hand—but we're sure to hear about it.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Follow digital assistant editor Jerilyn Forsythe on Twitter at @jlforsyt.