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Denver’s Pit Bull Ban Remains

Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Camp
Mayor Michael Hancock vetoes the repeal of the longstanding ban.

Are pit bulls inherently dangerous?

In 1989, two incidents caused the city and county of Denver to enforce a ban on pit bulls. Last month, the Denver City Council sought to repeal the ban, but were ultimately shut down by Mayor Michael Hancock’s veto.

The worldwide debate regarding the banning of pit bulls in cities, states, and even countries is a fiery one. There are, of course, the two opposing sides to the issue, and then there is a third who say pit bulls should not be outright banned but should not be completely free, either. This was Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon’s side. 

While the proposal was to repeal the ban, Herndon sought not to give pit bulls and their owners free reign, but rather sought to document pit bulls in the city and county of Denver in much the same way that some places require gun owners to join a registry and be documented. Currently, the pit bull ban includes American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and, of course, Pit Bulls. Herndon proposed allowing these breeds in Denver, but their owners would require a license and would need to provide emergency contacts and proof of microchipping.

Pit Bulls are currently banned in 12 countries, including Canada, France, New Zealand, Brazil, amongst others. Nearly 40 American states and over a thousand American cities impose some sort of pit bull ban. Recently, however, more cities worldwide began relaxing or entirely repealing their bans. Two such cases are Sioux City, Iowa, at the end of last year, and the Canadian city of Montreal, also at the end of last year.

According to CanineJournal.com, there are roughly 4.5 million dog bite cases in the US annually, with 81 percent of those cases resulting in “no injuries at all or only minor injuries that do not require medical attention.” According to the CDC, the top three dog breeds that are most likely to bite are, in order, chihuahuas, bulldogs, and pit bulls. 

Pit bulls were originally bred as hunting dogs meant to hunt and attack large game like wild boar. The ASPCA explains that all dog breeds are bred to perform a specific task, “whether that job is hunting rabbits, retrieving downed birds, herding livestock or sitting on people’s laps.” The Chinese shih tzu, for example, was bred to warm the laps of Chinese nobility in years past. Because of pit bulls’ reputations for aggression due to their breeding, people worldwide bred them to be fighting dogs, selecting the most violent individuals and mating them together to produce truly aggressive animals to compete in illegal, underground fighting rings, such as with the infamous case of football star Michael Vick in 2007.

Does that mean, then, that pit bulls are inherently dangerous? No. Even pit bulls who are bred to fight are bred to fight other dogs, not people, and are therefore, according to the ASPCA, not likely to attack humans. Pit bulls, like all dogs, are individuals and, if trained and handled correctly, can be the gentlest, most loving dogs around.

In the ASPCA’s lengthy and incredibly informative article on pit bulls, they conclude the ban versus no ban argument concisely: “Laws that ban particular breeds of dogs do not achieve these aims and instead create the illusion, but not the reality, of enhanced public safety.”  

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