AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - A five-year-old boy was hospitalized after a dog attack involving a previously banned breed that was repealed by Aurora City Council earlier this year. The mother of the child said they were told the dog would be good for children and they only wanted a dog that would become a loving member of their growing family.
"It breaks my heart, I mean it's something we had talked about at council previously," said Dave Gruber, Aurora City Council Member At Large. "We should go back to the city. We should ask the people whether they want pit bulls to come back in."
The family visited the mother's boyfriend on Sunday when the dog, an American Staffordshire terrier, attacked the boy unprovoked, according to the police report. The child started to move toward his mother who was on the floor with her other child when the dog, Cotto, got in front of her and bit the boy in the face.
The boyfriend had to grab the jaws of the dog and remove him from the boy before separating Cotto from the room. The family then rushed to the hospital where the child would eventually need several stitches for six different cuts on his face.
"No one wants to keep a vicious pit bull so every pit bull that they own is by definition a good dog, until the day that it isn't," Gruber told CBS4 on a video conference call.
The boyfriend told police they were advised this dog was good with children, an officer noted in their report. The dog was adopted from the Aurora Animal Shelter.
Staff say they test a dog's behavior and determine how they will handle certain situations. In this case, the dog was not considered to be a good match around small animals. But staff say that does not suggest how a dog might interact with children.
Even though the dog was attacked by another dog before coming into the shelter, staff say that does not indicate how it might react toward humans since dogs treat people differently than other dogs.
"Our thoughts are with the victim and his family, and we hope for a full recovery," said Ryan Luby, the deputy director of marketing and communications department for the City of Aurora. "The Aurora Animal Shelter uses the nationally recognized SAFER evaluation to assess dogs' suitability for adoption, gauging an animal's reaction to various encounters and stimuli such as food, toys and interactions. While this behavioral assessment is an effective tool, no assessment can be a predictor of animal behavior in all situations and circumstances. People who adopt animals from the shelter are required to sign the city's standard adoption agreement acknowledging this risk."
Shelter staff also told CBS4 the test is designed to determine how an individual dog behaves, they do not generalize on breeds. They would never say one breed is better or worse for children, they maintain it must be a case-by-case basis for individual dogs.
The attack comes just weeks after a change in city policy. The repeal of a ban on certain breeds including pit bulls and the American Staff terrier was a decision by council. The public was last asked about this issue in 2014, when 64 percent supported the ban.
"I think that it was important to go back to the city of Aurora and say, 'What do you think?' and then follow what the majority tell us," Gruber said about having the public chime in again on the issue.
While he cannot bring the issue back for reconsideration before the council because he was in the minority vote, he does not expect his colleagues who supported the repeal to revisit the issue. He hopes citizens call on a vote through their council members, which could lead to a ballot measure in November.
Gruber acknowledges that the thinking on this issue is evolving as Denver did vote to end its repeal in 2020. But he also points out that Denver had reminders of the violent side of some dogs in past attacks while they were voting, just like this recent dog bite in Aurora.
"When something like that happens, that's where people go, 'Oh yeah, I did hear that a pit bull could turn, I did hear that a pit bull could do something dangerous,'" he said. "'I would like to reconsider whether or not they stay in the city.'"
The mother told CBS4 on the phone she hopes families are even more careful about the dogs they adopt when living with young children. She also hopes shelters put more thought into how they advise families with children about what dogs they should bring home.
The president of the Denver Dumb Friends League provided a statement of support for repealing the ban when council voted on the issue but the organization said it could not comment directly on this case.
DDFL issued the following statement to CBS4:
"All dogs have the potential to bite, and any aggressive dog should be managed regardless of its breed. The repeal has not been in effect long enough to have had the positive impact of socialization and behavior support that is expected to create a safer community."
City staff confirmed the dog was euthanized this week. The family created a GoFundMe to help cover medical costs. You can donate at this link.
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