There are a few cities in Colorado that maintain their breed discriminatory laws in spite of the state law that prohibits breed discrimination by municipalities. These places are allowed to do so under the banner of “home rule,” or, to put a complex issue simply, the right of a municipality to self governance, independent of state laws.
These remaining “strong holds” are often lauded by the pro-BDL lobby as successes despite their well documented failure at reducing dog bites overall, and their failure to reduce severe dog bites.
Aurora is one of these cities.
The ban in Aurora targets the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, their mixes and any dog resembling these breeds.
The law requires the city to keep data on the ban, so we have a very clear case study on the failure of breed discriminatory laws, even when actively enforced.
We covered bite data from Aurora in depth in 2011, when a repeal was being discussed. This detailed data can be found here.
A summation of the data is that before the ban was enacted bites were declining. They had been declining for a 3 year period with a significant decline between 2004 (211 total bites) and 2005 (137 total bites). After the ban was enacted in 2006, bites increased every year until 2010 where a drop off occurred. This drop still put the years total at higher than the year preceding the ban.
It is not uncommon that attacks go up after a breed discriminatory law is instituted. Valuable animal control resources end up being diverted to targeting dogs that are not a problem in the community, leaving little time and resources to address those that are a problem.
Councilwoman Renie Peterson is planning on introducing a measure this spring that would repeal the ban. This is not the first time a repeal has been tried. In the past the council has been resistant to repeal, mostly citing outdated science as a justification. Peterson, herself, introduced the repeal in 2011 that failed to gain enough support to pass.
As the science behind canine genetics has advanced, so has our understanding of why the physical attributes of a dog cannot measure the dogs impact in the community. We have seen the fall of many long-standing bans and restrictions lately, often citing these new findings on genetics and behavior, as well as the difficulty of enforcement and the legal issues breed discriminatory laws raise.
Aurora has seen it’s fair share of litigation over the ban, including a lawsuit over the bans violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act, regarding service dogs.
There are still some on the council who support the ban and a repeal faces the same hurdles previous attempts faced.
A measure like this needs resident support. In the past, officials have not been open to hearing from those outside the community, as is usually the case. Since the ban affects those in Aurora, residents should reach out and ask their council members to support a repeal.
This is an issue for all residents. Aurora is not safer, and tax payer dollars are being wasted in a time when cities are struggling to find resources for basic necessities.
All communication with officials should be respectful and factual. The focus should be on the failure of the ban to create a safer community, the violation of property rights and due process. Emotional arguments are ineffective and counter productive. Comprehensive breed neutral laws have a remarkable track record of success in helping to create safer communities, while leaving the legal rights of citizens intact.
If anyone in the area is interested in becoming actively involved, you can reach out to ColoRADogs, a local group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.