Denver’s breed specific ban went into effect in 1989 and was enforced with discretion for the next 15 years. In 2004, Colorado passed a state law prohibiting cities and counties from singling out certain dogs. In 2005, Denver sued…and won saying the “home rule” gave Denver the right to do what they wanted regardless of state law. May 9, 2005 residents and pitbull owners of Denver were given 30 days to remove their dogs from the city. On the first day, more than a dozen dogs were seized. In the first year it is said that over 1,400 dogs were removed from family homes and eliminated. Today the number is estimated somewhere around 3,500.
I’m sure we have all heard numerous stories in the media about pitbull attacks and these attacks are what spur people to action on putting BSL in place. In the hopes that it can reduce tragic accidents.
The National Canine Research Council works tirelessly to get to the truth of dog-related fatalities. Unlike the folks who keep Dogbite.org the NCRC mission is “to be as accurate about these emotionally charged incidents as we can, so that they are calmly, correctly and, therefore, usefully understood.” These folks have done their homework. They contacted law enforcement and witnesses involved, reviewed reports, and visited sites of the attacks. NCRC found that in 2009 there were 31 dog-related fatalities. 71% of the incidents involved “resident” pets, defined as pets kept away from regular human interaction (i.e. in a cage, kennel, basement, or yard), of that number 35% of them were kept exclusively on chains. In 84% of the incidents pets were not spayed or neutered. In 20% owners were charged with a crime (read: dogs were acting protectively) and in 20% dogs were severely abused and/or neglected.
Now here is where it gets really interesting. Of the 31 dog-related fatalities reported in 2009, only 30% (that’s 9!) of the dogs involved were able to be accurately identified by breed. If you read the report you will see many of them were called pitbulls but few of them identified as such.
My points are these: 1) Denver sucks (BOO!!!). I guess that’s not completely fair, their ordinance does stipulate that if you have a pitbull and have had it since before the ordinance was in place, you can keep it. So, that’s great news for all of those Denverites with 22 year old dogs. 2) BSL is wrong (and really not breed specific but type specific) and has yet to show it is effective in lowering dog bite incidents. 3) People use the word pitbull liberally. To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Think you know what one looks like? Then find the pitbull.