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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock Vetoes Repeal Of Pit Bull Ban

DENVER (CBS4)- Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will not sign a repeal of the city's pit bull ban. With the veto of the ban repeal, the ordinance will not take effect and the ban will remain in effect.

"I concluded, from the data I was looking at that it would pose an increased risk in Denver," said Hancock on Friday afternoon.

The Denver City Council would need nine votes to overturn the veto, but at last check, only seven council members were in support of the repeal that would end the 30-year-old breed specific ban.

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (credit: CBS)

Denver City Council members recently passed the ordinance by a 7-4 vote. The law would have taken effect in 90 days and ended the 30-year-old breed specific ban.

Under the ordinance, owners would have had to register, micro-chip and spay or neuter their dog.

"Unfortunately, today in Denver less than 20% of pets in Denver are currently licensed. Which raises significant questions about the effectiveness of this proposed system," said Hancock.

Before his decision on Friday, Hancock said he was considering the history of the ban; how it went into effect following the death of a 3-year-old child, mauled by a pit bull to death in 1989.

Julie Kelly, a supporter of the repeal, says pit bulls are loyal and loveable, and that the breed is misunderstood.

"For being such a progressive city, with legalization of marijuana, decriminalization of psilocybin, it is so archaic and flawed that this ban still exists," she told CBS4's Dominic Garcia.

This is Hancock's first veto as mayor.

"I just kept thinking that if this were to become law in our city, and harm comes to someone as a result, then we would have done a disservice to the people of Denver," said Hancock.

Hancock released this statement:

Council President Clark and members of City Council:

Over the past several days, I have heard from thousands of residents passionately expressing their opinions on both sides of this issue. I want to thank everyone who has shared their views, especially those I have spoken to personally – experts in veterinary care, animal care and control, as well as residents of our city who have had experiences with the pit bull breeds – all to gain a broader understanding of what this change would mean for our community and those who own these dogs. After deep reflection and consideration, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation and will exercise my authority as Mayor to veto it.

Let me say at the outset that I salute the sponsor of this ordinance, Councilman Herndon, and his fellow Council members, who have tried to craft legislation that creates a data and licensing system for these breeds that is supported by veterinary experts and encourages owners of pit bull breeds to manage their pets. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of all pets in Denver are currently licensed, which raises significant questions about the effectiveness of this proposed new system. While much progress has been made in recent years to increase that number, more intentional efforts around responsible pet ownership, dog licensure and registration, and off-lease dogs are needed before this proposal should be considered. The reality is that irresponsible pet owners continue to be a problem, and it is the irresponsible owners and their dogs I must consider in evaluating the overall impact of this ordinance.

We cannot diminish the very real, very traumatic experiences of those who have reached out to me to share their stories. While I appreciate the effort that Councilman Herndon has put in to crafting this ordinance and its guardrails, I do not believe this ordinance fully addresses the very real risk to severe injury that can result from attacks from these particular dog breeds, especially should they happen to a child.

At the end of the day, I must ask whether passage of this ordinance would make our homes and neighborhoods safer or pose an increased risk to public safety? I have concluded that it would pose an increased risk. I encourage members of City Council to reconsider their approach to this ordinance, which has been in the municipal code for over three decades. If we were to make this change now, and harm comes to someone as a result, then we have done a disservice to the people of this great city.

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