Florence Vianzon Sasek hopes she can take Isis outside for a walk through her Aurora neighborhood again without strapping a pink leather muzzle over the dog's mouth.
Isis, a 5-year-old American Staffordshire terrier mix, can't ride in the car without being enclosed in a locked crate and is not allowed to roam her backyard without supervision.
Today, Vianzon Sasek's lawsuit challenging the city of Aurora's pit-bull ban goes to trial in U.S. District Court in Denver before Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel.
The case was filed on her behalf by the American Canine Foundation, a Washington state-based group focused on protecting the rights of dog owners and promoting responsible dog ownership.
Vianzon Sasek's lawsuit says that Aurora's ban on the breeds is unconstitutional, that the ordinance is vague and that the law was passed unnecessarily.
Isis, who wears a pink rhinestone collar that matches her muzzle, has never bitten anyone. Her most egregious offense is licking people's faces and walking away, Vianzon Sasek said.
"She's a great, sweet, gentle dog," she said.
In February 2006, the Aurora ban went into effect, targeting several breeds that are considered pit bulls or dogs that have the physical characteristics of pit bulls.
Vianzon Sasek owned Isis before the ban and is allowed to keep her dog if she complies with certain rules, such as erecting a 6-foot fence around her property and paying $200 a year in licensing fees.
Aurora's restricted-breed ordinance already has been challenged in state court and was upheld, said Aurora's City Attorney Charlie Richardson.
A similar legal challenge to Denver's pit-bull ban is pending before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judges in Utah, New Mexico, Washington, Arkansas and most recently, Ohio, also have upheld pit-bull ordinances.
"I am very hesitant to comment on the merits of the ban on the eve of a federal trial," Richardson said. "However, we will, of course, provide evidence to the court that our restricted-breed ordinance was and is lawful."
Aurora passed the ban shortly after the city and county of Denver adopted their own ordinance after a series of attacks involving pit bulls.
The American Canine Foundation reviewed incident reports from Aurora in 2003 to 2005 that showed almost 2 percent of injuries from canines were attributed to dogs that were classified as pit bulls. The other 98 percent involved breeds ranging from Jack Russell terriers to a St. Bernard.
City statistics show that in 2006, there were eight restricted-breed attacks on humans, compared with 123 attacks by other dogs on humans.
Last year, there were 11 attacks by restricted breeds on humans and 150 attacks by other dogs.
Glen Bui, a co-founder of the foundation, believes the city should focus on behaviors of individual dogs rather than an entire breed. He also said that owners like Vianzon Sasek, who are most likely to comply with the ordinance, are not the problem.
"The law does nothing to target illegal activity like dog fighting," Bui said. "Because (some owners) are criminals, they are not going to follow a breed-specific law."
Vianzon Sasek says she didn't want to move out of Aurora because her son is attending a charter school that was tough to get into. She also didn't want to give up her beloved Isis and decided to do all she could to comply with the ordinance while she fights it.
"It's an emotional thing," Vianzon Sasek said, while petting Isis in her living room last week. "Who wants to touch a dog with a muzzle on?"
Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or firstname.lastname@example.org