Denver residents to vote to lift pit bull ban; Aurora is postponing a similar decision

With cities and counties across the country repealing race-specific laws banning pit bulls, Denver and its closest neighbor, Aurora, are on separate paths with their bans.

Denver City Council on Monday cemented a move asking voters in November if the city’s long-standing pit bull ban should be lifted and replaced with some sort of restricted license. Aurora city council on Monday opposed a similar election move to bolster existing aggressive animal laws before attempting to lift the ban.

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimated in 2017 that around 900 cities across the country have breed-specific legislation, but many are starting to reverse their course. Similar bans were recently lifted in the Kansas City metropolitan area and Sioux City, Iowa, among others. Additionally, Castle Rock City Council lifted its ban in 2018.

The proposal from Denver City Councilor Chris Herndon was passed by the city council earlier this year but was rejected by Mayor Michael Hancock.

Meanwhile, Aurora residents and officials have had similar conversations.

The conversations are often emotional, riddled with those who have suffered from dog attacks or know someone who has. Even Hancock has said he was bitten by a pit bull as a kid.

But there are others who, while understanding the fear, argue that the data shows that the racial laws are ineffective and have even been used in the past to target color communities.

When he voted for Herndon’s first repeal attempt that year, Alderman Jolon Clark said he had concerns about the move but could not ignore the data vets and other experts presented to him in support of the repeal.

Now the decision is up to the voters in Denver. If they agree to the repeal, city officials will effectively create a restricted license for pit bulls. If owners – limited to two pit bulls per house – pay a higher fee than required for other dogs, keep adequate records and have no problems for three years, the restriction will be lifted.

Aurora will move much more slowly if it lifts its ban at all.

An electoral measure had been proposed for Colorado’s third largest city, but the city council there concluded 7-3 on Monday. Instead, the group will consider a proposal to strengthen existing laws on dangerous dogs in the city that would give city judges more flexibility in handling aggression cases, said Nancy Sheffield, interim director of housing and community services.

The city council will look at how well this bill works, if approved, before deciding whether to take action to lift the city’s pit bull ban on the 2021 ballot at the earliest.

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