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Denver Councilman Chris Herndon Hopes To End Breed Ban, Including Pit Bulls

DENVER (CBS4) - A Denver city councilman is looking to end the ban on bully breed dogs. Pit bull breeds, which include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, have been banned for more than 30 years. The first reading of the repeal of the breed ban will be heard on Wednesday.

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The City and County of Denver passed the ban in 1989 after two attacks resulting in death and serious injury. Councilman Chris Herndon says breed-specific bans are ineffective, as there are still pit bulls in Denver.

Herndon believes his proposed breed-restrictive license would bring those dogs out of the shadows — holding bad owners accountable, without punishing good dogs with bad reputations.

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Denver Councilman Chris Herndon (credit: CBS)

"Dogs bite, but there's no such thing as a bad breed. But what's the middle ground? This is a very good compromise. Let's take time to demonstrate that they're no different than any other animal," said Herndon.

According to his proposal, an application for a breed-restricted license will include the owner's name and address, two emergency contacts and a description of the pit bull and photograph.

"Since they're licensed, we'd have the ability, if an incident occurs, to respond to and address the issue," said Herndon. "Denver Animal Protection will also be permitted to access the owner's premises, to check on the animal."

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The owner will have to provide proof that the animal has a registered microchip implanted, as well as proof of vaccination. The owner can not have more than two pit bulls at one time. Animal protection must be notified within eight hours if the dog has escaped or attacked a person or animal.

If there are no violations during the dog's probationary three-year license period, the owner can apply for a new license – the same one needed for any other dog.

The proposal would allow any humane society registered by the city to hold, transport and adopt any pit bull. The Dumb Friends League told CBS4 they're in support of the license.

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"We should be looking at the dog as a whole, rather than slapping something onto a breed because it has a blocky head and looks a certain way," said Maia Brusseau with the Dumb Friends League.

Brusseau says DFL shelters hold many bully breed dogs, but city bans make it challenging for the dogs to find homes. It also prevents bully owners from seeking resources and bringing their dogs in for treatment.

"They sometimes won't seek behavioral help or training. They're afraid if someone finds out they live in Denver with that banned breed, they might face ramifications," said Brusseau.

According to the proposal, a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association has since found that pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous compared with other dogs. More than 100 cities have repealed their bans entirely.

The formal proposal will be presented Wednesday.

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