By Peter Marcus
Denver Daily News
Since Denver’s ban on pit bulls was reinstated one year ago today,
approximately 1,039 pit bulls have been euthanized, yet Denver Animal
Control officials said the number of pit bull bites in that time has
While the exact number of pit bull bites since the ban was
reinstated was not available yesterday, Doug Kelley, director of Denver
Animal Control, said the department has not seen a drop in bites.
“The number of bites has been stagnant,” he said. “We have not
really seen a jump in the number of pit bull bites since enforcement
began nor have we seen a decrease.”
The breed was banned by city ordinance in 1989, but a state law
passed in 2004 prohibited the singling out of certain breeds of dogs.
Denver sued and in December, 2004, Denver District Court Judge Martin
F. Egelhoff issued a ruling that the state law violated Denver’s home
rule authority under the Colorado state constitution.
In April, 2005, 150 Denver residents were sent letters from Denver
Animal Control, warning them that the city planned to resume its ban
outlawing pit bulls within city limits. More than one dozen dogs were
confiscated the day the ban was reinstated by animal control officers
and the number has since grown to 1,475 as of last Tuesday.
Kelley said it was difficult to determine if the ban was working
explaining that it’s tough to pull precise statistics since the ban was
“It’s a really hard question to answer,” said Kelley in regard to
whether the ban was working or not. “It depends on how you define
success there is an ordinance against keeping pit bulls and we are
impounding a lot of pit bulls.”
Though Kelley has defined the ordinance as a success based on the
confiscation of hundreds of pit bulls, opponents of the ban said proof
is in the facts.
“There have been no pit bull fatal attacks since the ban was put in
place but the last fatal pit bull attack was in 1986,” explained Sonya
Dias founder of the group Pit Bill BAND in Denver and who had to send
her own pit bull out of the city after the ban was reinstated. “Even
more important though, is that the cities of Dallas and Portland also
had pit bull attacks in 1986. They did not ban pit bulls and in both
those cities there have been no pit bull fatalities since then either.
So, is it working? Yeah, right.”
Opponents of the Denver ban call into question why pit bulls are
being singled out pointing to statitistics indicating that in 2005
there were 39 pit bull bites, but 72 German shepherd bites. The same
year, there were 48 labrador bites and 39 chow bites. In 2004, there
were 56 pit bull bites in Denver, but 78 German shepherd bites, 51
labrador bites and 42 chow bites. This past March, two boxer dogs
attacked a grandmother while she was walking down the street in Denver.
Officials said she would have died had it not been for a Good
Samaritan who happened to be passing by at the time and was able to
scare the dogs away.
The Denver City Council, which voted unanimously in favor of the
ban, has said their feelings are little changed even in the face of
evidence indicating that pit bull bites have not dropped since the ban
“I think if we have the ordinance it’s the most important and best
thing to do,” said Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth.
When asked why, Wedgeworth declined to respond.
Councilman Charlie Brown, also a major supporter of the ban, said
what the Council is doing is for the good and protection of the entire
“I stand exactly where I stood one year ago,” he said noting that
Denver has had a ban on pit bulls since 1989 and therefore he does not
recognize today as an anniversary. “We’ve seen horrible attacks in
surrounding communities, on children as well as adults, that’s why we
have the ban.”
In Aurora, Commerce City and Lone Tree, city government passed pit
bull bans out of fear of becoming a sanctuary city for the breed in the
face of Denver’s ban. But other Denver-metro cities have reconsidered
bans on pit bulls opting to toughen vicious-animal ordinances in the
face of mounds of e-mails and letters stating opposition. In
Lafayette, Longmont, Lakewood, Parker and Federal Heights, city
officials have dismissed the idea of breed specific legislation.
Tonight, at 8 p.m., pit bull supporters will hold a candlelight
vigil outside Denver’s animal shelter to memorialize the euthanized pit
“We’ll have a candlelight vigil to memorialize the 1100 dogs that
have been killed just because of the way they look,” wrote organizer
Lisa Ransdell in an e-mail message to BAND members and obtained by the
Denver Daily News.
Supporters will hold signs that read, “I’m sorry you want to kill
just for the way I look.”
“This event is to commemorate the dogs and highlight the fact that
dogs are being killed just for the way they look,” said Ransdell.
“I’ve talked to dog people from all around the country who do not truly
believe that the city of Denver is picking up good family dogs and
killing them. People need to know this is happening here and is
happening or could happen elsewhere.”