AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - The Aurora City Council voted on Monday night to repeal the city's ban on restricted dog breeds. The ordinance passed on a final vote of 7-3, with council members Françoise Bergan, Dave Gruber and Marsha Berzins voting against it.
The ordinance overrules a 2014 election where 64% of Aurora voters opposed allowing pit bulls in the city. Berzins, Bergen and Gruber agreed with Mayor Mike Coffman that the repeal should go for a vote of the people.
Last month, Coffman introduced a competing ordinance, which would allow voters to decide on the future of the pit bull ban in the 2021 municipal election. That ordinance failed to pass.
Gruber and Bergan said they were informed that an attorney plans to sue the city for "delegitimizing the voters' decision."
"I know that there's been discussion within this council that that vote was not binding and it wasn't a legal vote. I guess we'll find out from the lawsuit whether that's true," Gruber said. "I still think that this should go back to the voters. We should ask them the same question and ask them if their minds have been changed."
Council member Allison Hiltz sponsored the ordinance and said public perception of restricted breeds has changed.
"When this went to the voters it was an advisory question. We did not have a dangerous dog ordinance in place. We did not have that robust outreach with animal services where we've seen that the survey results have come back in support of a repeal. Things have changed since then," Hiltz said in December.
Berzins told council members that her cousin's dog was killed by a "pit bull-type" breed in his own backyard.
"For those of you who vote for this, just remember that you did and when a horrible accident happens just remember that you voted to have them back in the city," Berzins said.
In November, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved a repeal of the city's pit bull ban. Denver officials recently began the process of issuing breed-restricted permits to allow pit bull ownership and adoptions.
Dr. Apryl Steele, President and CEO of the Denver Dumb Friends League provided the following statement to Aurora City Council in support of the repeal:
"I commend you for showing up as leaders to address Aurora's ban on pit bulls, and I understand the complexity introduced by repealing a ban that was enacted by council and subsequently voted on by citizens. As I have listened to your discourse on this topic, it occurs to me that what you are discussing and the decision you are making are two different things.
Some seem to think the decision is about whether pit bulls should exist in Aurora. The reality is that pit bulls already live in Aurora. Since the enactment of the pit bull ban, thousands of pit bulls that had been living in Aurora have been voluntarily relinquished to the Dumb Friends. Do not be fooled, pit bulls are living in Aurora right now.
Every council member is concerned about the safety of our community. This is an issue we take very seriously at the Dumb Friends League. This is exactly why it is vital to create a community where pit bull puppies can be socialized without fear of having them confiscated. This is also why allowing your citizens to adopt a pit bull from an organization that has several full-time behavior experts evaluating the animal prior to making it available, rather than obtaining it from underground resources motivated by profit, is imperative. The fear of bringing the dog out in public, sourcing pit bulls from unscreened dog dealers, and not providing them with veterinary care or training all increase risks to your citizens.
As a veterinarian and as the CEO of the Dumb Friends League, I strongly support well-written, appropriately enforced dangerous dog ordinances. Aurora has lain this groundwork well. Holding owners accountable for the behavior of their dog is the best way to make Aurora as safe as possible.
Why does this change need to be made now? Too many families have been broken up because their family dog is a banned breed. Not because the dog showed any sign of aggression. Not because the dog injured any other animal or person. These are dogs that sleep on their owner's beds, dogs who are providing essential companionship during a time of extreme isolation and critical mental health challenges. For many, a relationship with a pet is their only reason to engage with the world right now. To remove this source of comfort in this extreme time is indefensible
A majority of city councilmembers have shown impressive leadership around this issue. Please vote to repeal the pit bull ban so that your community can be safer, and families can remain whole."
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