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Lifting Pit Bull Ban: Denver Considers Allowing Bully Breeds, With Restrictions

DENVER (CBS4) - The Denver City Council is looking to end the ban on bully breed dogs -- including pit bulls, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. A council committee voted to move forward with a proposed license that would bring Pit Bulls back to Denver.

(credit: CBS)

The City and County of Denver passed the ban in 1989 after two attacks resulting in death and serious injury. According to the proposal, a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association has found pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous compared with other dogs. More than 100 cities have repealed their bans entirely.

"What I don't have before you is an outright repeal. What I have before you is a compromise," said Councilman Chris Herndon.

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Denver Councilman Chris Herndon (credit: CBS)

Herndon says breed-specific bans are ineffective, as there are still pit bulls in Denver. He 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.

"Since they're licensed, we'd have the ability, if an incident occurs, to respond to and address the issue," said Herndon.

However, some Denver residents are concerned about lifting the ban.

"There's a lot of high rises around here and it's a community -- and suddenly pit bulls are legal? And all of a sudden people move in who haven't properly trained their dog. That could be a problem," said Bill Lee.

"The amount of pressure they can put on someone or on a dog is enough to kill them -- so I personally don't let pit bulls play with my dog because I get worried that if it snaps it's going to hurt it. But I think it's nice for people to be able to own them," Cory Center said.

A veterinarian who spoke at Wednesday's committee meeting says the license could mean an end to the unintended consequences that came with the ban. She told the committee, "Dog bite prevention requires social conditioning to live closely with people, dogs and small animals."

The Dumb Friends League also supports the proposal, explaining the ban prevents bully owners from seeking resources and bringing their dogs in for treatment and training. The proposal would allow any humane society registered by the city to hold, transport and adopt any pit bull.

The owner will have to provide proof that the animal has a registered microchip implanted, as well as proof of vaccination. According to Herndon's 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.

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.

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"Denver Animal Protection will also be permitted to access the owner's premises, to check on the animal," said Herndon.

"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.

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Brusseau says DFL shelters hold many bully breed dogs, but city bans make it challenging for the dogs to find homes.

"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.

However, critics like Colleen Lynn, the founder of, say lifting the ban will cause an explosion in the population of those breeds.

Councilman Kevin Flynn, a former reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, says he vividly remembers the attacks that led to the city's ban.

"Three-year-old Fernando Salazar's death in southwest Denver is one of the fatalities that led to this law. I don't take it very lightly. I would not vote for an outright appeal, but Herndon's proposal does have a lot of merit that I need to look at," said Flynn.

Flynn hopes more people will plan to attend future city council meetings when this proposal is on the agenda, so additional views can be heard.

RELATED: Breed Ban Advocates Say Pit Bull Population Will Explode If Ban Lifted In Denver

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