Breed bans could be on way out
Several cities look at alternatives to control vicious dogs
By Kate Larsen, Camera Staff Writer
April 10, 2006
The trend to ban pit bulls may be losing some of its bite.
Although prevalent in Colorado and around the country, bans against the dogs haven't been as easy to come by in recent months. Several communities, including Longmont, Lafayette, Jefferson County and Parker, are leaning instead toward broad-based approaches to animal control.
"It seemed like there was a first wave that rushed in the direction to ban, and now there seems to be a wave of moderation," said Michael Helmstetter, development director of the Longmont Humane Society.
Louisville is the only Boulder County city that bans pit bulls. Denver, Castle Rock and Fort Lupton also ban the breed. In Aurora and Commerce City, leaders voted recently to ban new pit bulls instead of outlawing all of the pets.
Those against breed bans say elected officials are doing more homework on the topic and taking a broader view of the issue. But those who want pit bulls outlawed are concerned the tide may be turning in a dangerous direction.
"Unfortunately I think it's going to require more accidents and more injuries," said Sue Klempan, of Lafayette.
Klempan, a former Lafayette mayor, raised the breed ban issue to city leaders in December after her 14-year-old cat was killed by a neighbor's loose pit bull on Klempan's front porch. Legislation may not be the answer, Klempan said, but something needs to be done.
"We're just not reaching the people whose dogs are attacking," she said.
The Longmont City Council decided against pursuing a pit bull ban last week, despite earlier support from some residents and elected officials. Instead, the city will take a closer look at its vicious animal laws and outreach efforts.
"We're talking about working with the humane society and vets and the city to come up with a larger education campaign," Longmont Mayor Julia Pirnack said.
There's also talk of partnering with local veterinarians to encourage more residents to license their dogs, as well as establishing a hot line to report dangerous animals. Pirnack said adding more laws doesn't ensure public safety if current laws aren't being enforced.
Jan McHugh-Smith, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, said Longmont's approach is exciting.
"They took the time to look at the issue at a global level rather than reacting to one incident," McHugh-Smith said.
Longmont council member Doug Brown said he initially had some major concerns about pit bulls. But after studying the issue, the former mail carrier decided against banning the dogs.
"Because in the long run it will be another breed that takes its place," Brown said.
Karen Delise, a researcher with the National Canine Research Foundation, said pit bulls simply are the popular dog right now among "substandard" owners who want to portray a violent image. The Doberman pinscher had its day in the 1980s, the bloodhound in the 1800s and the bull mastiff in Roman times, she said.
"There is no study, whatsoever, that says a pit bull has more biting force per square inch than any other breed," Delise said.
But a Denver district court found in 1990 that pit bulls inflict more serious wounds than other breeds.
The issue will come up again soon in Lafayette, as city leaders consider whether to change any of its animal laws.
"We haven't really decided yet," Mayor Chris Berry said. "But the focus is definitely away from (a ban)."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Kate Larsen at (303) 473-1361 or firstname.lastname@example.org..