Tag Archives: aurora colorado

Aurora, Colorado: The good, the bad and the silver lining

November 4th, a ballot measure in Aurora, Colorado that would have repealed the ban on dogs who are over 50% “pit bull” failed to pass.

On the surface, this seems to be a disheartening loss.  A lot of hard work was put into educating the public about the ban on a shoe string budget, and hopes were high that this would be the first repeal to happen by popular vote.  Ballot measures of any kind are complex creatures, with many factors contributing to the outcome.  It was an uphill battle from the start, but, when the bottom line is examined, we come away with a message not of failure, but of hope and success.

The first issue advocates for breed neutral laws had to contend with was the time frame.  The ballot was brought up for discussion by the city council 2 months before they officially created the measure.  City council must vote to put an issue on the ballot and the language of the ballot.  This means that groups in the area had a scant 90 days to develop and deliver their message.

Repeal had been a long running discussion in the community.  The issue had seen some significant media coverage even before the ballot came up.  The media and council were told by Aurora Animal Control that the ban was working and that bites in the community had been reduced, though they neglected to provide any data.   The actual data, obtained via a request to the city attorney, tells a very different story.

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

A detailed analysis of the data from Brent Toellner, KC Dog Blog, shows the same story that is clearly illustrated in the above chart.  Bites have increased in Aurora, overall, by 77% since the bans inception (details provided in the link).  This pivotal fact was neglected by every single media outlet that reported on the issue.  It is very clear that animal control was presenting “facts” to support the ban, instead of those that would inform the public.

Not only was Aurora Animal Control playing the part of spin doctor to cover the bans failure at protecting residents, they have also failed at breed identification.

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Aurora is one of the few places where DNA testing is codified in the law. Because of this, we can see exactly how good animal control is at the job of identifying “pit bulls.” 76% of the time, dogs being targeted under the ban are not covered under the wording of the law.  76% of the time, resources in the form of man hours and money are wasted on dogs that are unlucky enough to look the part.  This information was also readily available via the city attorney’s office, but, yet again, both animal control and the media neglected to mention, even once, how abysmal the breed identification track record is.

In the 90 days before the ballot due date, local groups conducted a grassroots campaign to inform the public about the ballot and the ban.  Director of ColoRADogs, Nancy Tranzow, stated that many people believed the ban only affected dogs who were actually vicious, and were unaware that dogs that had done nothing wrong were being confiscated and killed.  When it was explained how these laws impact innocent families, many people changed their opinion of the ban.  The issue of property rights did not seem to affect opinions, stated Tranzow.  This stands out because according to a focus group conducted by Luntz Global, at the behest of Best Friends Animal Society, the issue of property rights featured strongly as one of the most effective arguments.

So what happened with the ballot itself?  Aurora operates mostly on mail in ballots and voters are responsible for postage.

The language of the ballot was deceptively simple.  “Shall the people of Aurora adopt an ordinance allowing pit bulls back into their city?”  This would appear to be a good thing, particularly after the issue of the Miami ballot measure language, which was so confusing many people claimed they voted the wrong way.  Experts on the legislative process and ballot initiatives say otherwise.  Many point out that overly simple language on a complex issue leads people to make uninformed decisions.  So instead of opting out of voting on something they are not familiar with, a person will vote based on “feeling, not fact” as Councilwoman Molly Markert so aptly put it.

“It’s not about a fact, it’s about a feeling.”  Should public safety be about a feeling?  This question should not even have to be answered.  The answer should be so self-evident that the question would never have to be asked.  Unfortunately, Aurora finds itself at the mercy of feelings and not facts.  The beautiful thing about facts, however, is that they always win out in the end.

So lets look at the facts:

-Aurora’s ban had not reduced attacks.

-Those tasked with the implementation of the ban cannot identify what they are trying to keep out of their community and yet they continue to insist this thing they can’t identify is much more dangerous than other dogs just by being.

-Informal polling in mid-September showed only 24% of people were for the repeal and (according to the count at the time of this posting) 35.2% actually voted to repeal.  This percentage increase in the span of roughly 45 days is remarkable.  Though some pro-BSL blogs are saying that the vote was 22,719 to repeal the ban and 92,898 to keep the ban, this is untrue.  The official count for the measure at the time of this post is 34,284 votes for repeal vs 62,953 against.  These numbers have changed several times, with the number of votes for repeal, creeping up steadily.

Polling roughly 45 days before the vote showed 24% for repeal.  That turned into 35.2% of voters for repeal.  This is something that should be highlighted.  There were 90 days to reach a community of almost 350,000 people, a part of which had no idea that there is a ban in place.  In 45 days, advocates increased support for the repeal and not only increased support, but increased the number of people who were willing to vote to change it in a quantifiable way.  Fact, not feeling.

The repeal failed.  This is a fact.  It is also a fact that education works to change minds.  It is a fact that the people working for the repeal were effective in their methods.  They worked professionally and ethically in the face of bullying, cyber stalking and harassment by the out of state pro-BSL lobby.  They worked diligently in the face of childish name calling, liable and blatant bigotry against them as individuals by so-called victims advocates.  They stood up and spoke up for the betterment of the community and they most certainly are not stopping just because feeling won this round.

Fact will win out.

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An Urgent Message from Aurora Colorado

There is no doubt that demonstrations can be an effective tool in certain situations. This is not one of those times.  The following has been reprinted with permission from ColoRADogs regarding tonights meeting in Aurora Colorado.

We’re not demonstrating and asking people to not do so, because we have been asked to avoid it by the people who have the power to continue to ban our dogs. We choose not to because Council Woman Renie Peterson has made a tremendous effort to advocate on behalf of all pit bull owners, and deserves the full support of our community. She has said it is counter to our efforts and hers. We respect that, and her, so we will follow her lead. When someone shows you the path and says it’s the one most likely to lead you to the end goal, you take it.

It’s the last blog before tonight’s presentations. We hope to see you all there filling the room. We also want to wish the best of luck to community members who will be presenting about urban chickens. In the middle of this work, sometimes the view can get myopic. There are other issues equally important to Aurora citizens, and chickens are a big one. Our founder’s community has urban chickens. We love them, so best of luck to the chicken advocates!

We’ve actually avoided this blog. We know that when you put things in writing, you risk the cut and paste crowd of using your words against you. At this point, because we have had so many supporters and advocates email us privately and ask, we thought it’s time to open up a discussion. Starting with why we will not, nor do we, support demonstrations.

The work in Aurora this year has been difficult and has required political tightrope walking. While there are many aspects to ColoRADogs, we have spent an average of 120 person hours a week on this issue alone. When we decided to work with Aurora to repeal this law, we reached out to Jen Bryant to come on board. Jen has a proven track record of working with City Council and getting results. We knew that despite years of effort, BSL had no signs of going away and we needed to do it differently.

With Jen working as a liaison, and with the incredible efforts of Council Member Renie Peterson who introduced the proposal to end BSL, we were able to open dialogue with city council. Our one question was, “How can we support your council to remove BSL?” It was that simple. No berating, no telling them they suck. Just a simple question, “How can we help?”

What we received were comments from council members asking us to, “keep it respectful,” and that if it “became a circus” they would shut it down.

Do we think that is just an excuse to not move repeal forward? Perhaps for one, or maybe two of the members. But for the others, it was guidance on how to succeed. So we’ve followed it to a tee.

Not because we’re into rules or like to tow the line for anyone. But because after so many years in advocacy work for less than popular issues, along with speaking to advocates who have succeeded in repealing BSL in their communities, we have evidence of what works, and what does not. The most consistent feedback we have received has been, “Avoid demonstrations, they polarize and stop forward momentum.”

This is not about trying to quiet anyone. It’s not about ego nor credit. We could not care less about 15 minutes of fame.  Those things do nothing to further the agenda of breed neutral laws and safe, humane communities. It’s about the ability to fund resources to underserved populations in Aurora. It’s about pit bull owners who have had to say goodbye to their beloved family member. That is our focus, period. It’s not personal to anyone or any group.

It’s out of respect to the process, the council, and every owner who has come to us asking for help to get rid of these laws. We owe it to all of you to do our very best with the information we have, and to make this successful for you.

We hope to see you out there in support and solidarity both tonight and March 3rd for study session. Remember, keep it respectful and keep the faith. We’ve been given information on how to help support forward movement. Let’s take it and run with it.

Here are the details again. Public input is held before the regular city council meeting. Show up at 7pm to sign up to speak. You have three minutes to show your best stuff. If you have a Power Point presentation, please submit it to Television Services, first floor city hall, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway Aurora, Colorado 80012, near the Aurora Room by noon on Monday.

Also, please have a paper copy of your presentation so City Council can follow along.”

Aurora Colorado repeal needs help now

A potential repeal of Aurora Colorado’s breed ban has been moved onto the next step by the council.

The repeal, which is backed by Renie Peterson, passed the first step in the process, when it was sent to study by the cities Public Safety committee.  The committee meets in order to hear proposals and hear feed back from areas of government that the proposal concerns.

The agenda was changed so that BSL was first in line. Because of protocol, Animal Care and Control were the only people allowed to present. We were disappointed in both their support of continuing the law, and using Dogsbite, a hysteria based website, as “proof” of the dangers of dogs who have a certain appearance. We’re going to hope they are able to develop partnerships that nurture the “care” part of their mission. A second source was Kory Nelson. A Denver City Attorney, who fought like tooth and nail to keep BSL in Denver, and continues to champion it as a great law…”

In arguing for keeping the breed ban, the local animal care and control department claimed that HSUS held them up as a model community for their dangerous dogs laws.  HSUS has responded to this claim, in a letter to the city council (full letter available here).

“We also understand there has been some confusion about The HSUS’ endorsement of Aurora’s dog policies. The HSUS supports strong, comprehensive laws regarding the management of vicious or dangerous dogs, contingent upon there being no breed-specific components of said law. In a recent council meeting, a speaker claimed that HSUS cited Aurora as “model” legislation, and in 2004 we did—prior to the introduction of breed-specific policy in Aurora. The HSUS does not support or commend Aurora for their current dog laws. Instead we encourage your community to forge a new path to promote public safety and support dog owning families.”

At least one member of the committee who had initially shown some support for a repeal had begun to back track a little bit in her support, stating that she would support a repeal of the ban for restrictions instead.

One other council member, who has not made a commitment either way, specifically called out the credibility of ACC’s source of information and stated he wanted information from unbiased sources.  This information is being gathered and provided to the full council.

“In arguing for keeping BSL, Cheryl Conway of Aurora ACC argued that people who complain about the law are not from Aurora, nor even from Colorado. We’re going to ask you to help prove them wrong on that by a letter writing campaign.”

AURORA COLORADO RESIDENTS AND RESIDENTS ONLY:

The time has come to make your voices heard!

Begin reaching out and expressing support for a repeal.  One of the comments made by an official is that they don’t think residents support a repeal.  Considering that pro-BDL groups from not only out of the city, but also out of the state and out of the country, have been contacting the council, this is an ironic point.

“…what we do see, what we know, are that groups like dogsbite are lobbying hard in our community to control local issues and laws. They are hitting it hard, and will remain relentless until the end. So it’s our job, your job, Coloradans jobs, to shut them down. These are our cities and communities, our neighbors and our representatives.  It is our voice, local voices that deserve to be heard, and determine the outcome of local issues.

Residents should reach out with a simple expression of support.  The shorter the better, as we know that at least one council member has stopped reading the e-mails and is looking only at the subject lines.

The council can be reached at citycouncil@auroragov.org.

The subject line should read in support of the repeal.  This should be straight to the point.  Something along the lines of “Repeal breed ban”  or “Please support breed ban repeal” so that it is easily seen what the topic is.

A lot of studies and data have been presented to the council already, so at this time all that is needed is expressions of support for the repeal.

Again, a simple message will do.

“To whom it may concern,

As a resident of Aurora in Ward # X (ward number can be found on the cities website) I support the repeal of the “pit bull” ban and urge the council to support a repeal of the ban as well.

(Your name)”

Or:

My name is…

I am a resident of Aurora. I support repeal of BSL and replacing it with breed neutral laws that hold owners accountable.

Regards;
(your name)”

Make sure to include your ward number or address, any information that will identify you as a resident of Aurora.  This is incredibly important and cannot be stressed enough.

These correspondence are being counted, and members are claiming they are receiving a flood of e-mails urging them to keep the ban.

Another thing residents can do is to attend their wards meetings.  There is a schedule available here, of which wards are having meetings, the date and times.  This will give residents a chance to speak directly about the issue, show an in person presence and be heard, as well as giving you, the resident, a more active role in what is happening in your community.

The study session is set for March 3rd at 5pm.  Every single person who supports a repeal is being urged to attend this meeting.  There will be no public comment at this meeting but a large presence will make an impact.  The meeting will take place at the Aurora City Hall-Council Chambers, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, Colorado, 80012.

Information in italics has been reprinted with permission from ColoRADogs.

A message from Aurora Colorado regarding potential repeal of their ban

It has been a long hard road to repeal the breed ban in Aurora Colorado.  There have many attempts to have the council address the issue via letter writing campaigns, requests to the council directly and other tactics, which would be best described as “frontal assaults.”

One of the biggest things that tends to trip up efforts such as this is the inability to remain factual, letting emotion override reasonable discourse.  We see this time and time again, Broward County Florida this past summer and Yakima Washington this past week are just a couple of examples from recently.  Officials  say that the process is not respected adequately and the result is often the same in every municipality, legislators shut down to the conversation, and dig in to the status quo.

Aurora is at a tipping point.  The council has pledged to give the issue thoughtful examination, and word from inside Aurora shows that this is not an empty promise.

ColoRADogs, a local advocacy group that has been working towards a repeal, has published a letter for those in the area about what is taking place behind the scenes and what is needed to help continue the discussion in a productive manner.

Keeping thoughtful discourse open requires several things in this case specifically.  The issue will be addressed in January 2014, but the council members are wearing thin on having the regular city business interrupted.  At this time, people are being asked to withhold public commentary at the council meetings until the issue is brought forward in January, as this will put the issue in jeopardy.  For residents (and residents ONLY) who wish to write, one of the council members has made some suggestions for keeping correspondence productive.

Remember that this is a political process.  When we engage in the political process, we must attempt to think like a politician.  The “frontal assault” tactics have failed before and advocates are trying to keep this from happening again.

The following is republished with permission from ColoRADogs:

“Addressing BSL in Aurora and my conversation with Councilwoman Peterson

I apologize for the delay of my post. I have spent considerable time drafting a post that will convey the importance of the CM Renie Peterson’s suggestions and concerns, while remaining sensitive to the urgency and concerns of fellow animal advocates.  All I can do in that regard is assure you all that this subject is deeply personal to me, as well, and I am conveying this information in attempt to preserve the possibility of repealing Aurora’s Restricted Breed Ordinance and creating a model responsible ownership community for other cities to emulate.

By accomplishing these two things, and preserving the line of communication we create in doing so, we can achieve more safe and humane communities across the state, improve shelter conditions, reduce shelter intake, and encourage shelters to save lives through behavioral programs and rescue partnerships.  That’s another post, let’s get to Renie’s concerns and suggestions.

CM Peterson shared with me that repealing the ban is attainable only if we keep the line of communication open by respecting the council, the process and the city of Aurora.   Many of the members of council and the Mayor want to give this issue the time it deserves.  This will be proposed in January, provided council does not feel regular city business is disrupted before then. Renie did share that members of council feel bombarded with a profoundly negative message, by non-constituents and some constituents, at the regular city council meetings and this is already wearing on them.

I would ask you to forgive my bluntness, but we simply do not have the opportunity to mince words at this point.  It has come to my attention that some advocates plan on addressing council again this month.  Please respect the time of council and the fact they have already agreed to hear us out in January and give them this time to finish their current projects for 2013 and begin their reorganizing for 2014.  Addressing them again this month only serves to break down the relationship.

If advocates continue the negativity and disrespect towards their time and their city the proposal to repeal will be dropped at any time, and we currently face the very real possibility of not being allowed the opportunity for discussion.  For those of you there in 2011, you know the difficulties that presents  It’s not very effective trying to coach a council member through facial expressions from the sidelines.  We need to be in on the conversation.  Change happens through productive dialogue and it is up to us to see that we have that opportunity.

Today I sat in a jury room for hours watching other potential jurors being asked questions first by the prosecutor who brought them in by empowering them. Then I watched a (I presume new) defense attorney tear them down through her own style of questioning which bordered on accusatory, as if they were the prosecution’s witness.  The jurors visibly became defensive and lost focus on the questions as they focused on their new-found hatred for this defense attorney. Council members are like jurors.  Win them over!  Make them want to be on your side!  They don’t owe you or I anything, their duty is to  do what is best for the city and their constituents as a whole.  We can provide the knowledge and the tools, council will make the decisions.

So let’s lighten this up a little and get to the fun part!  Suggestions!  How we can win them over!  While you may have heard some of these from me before, the general suggestions are straight from an Aurora Councilwoman.

GRATITUDE!  Yes, you can be sincere and do this.  Remember despite some of the same challenges, progress was made in 2011, thank Council for continuing to work with us and thank them for choosing to move the proposal forward.  Please be sure to thank CM Renie Peterson for bringing this to council.

KEEP IT LOCAL!  Like I said before, council wants to hear from their constituents but if they start seeing the majority of messages are not from constituents they will not have the time to read and the message will be lost altogether.  If you do not live here but want to help , recruit Aurora citizens or a highly regarded expert (star power, anyone?)

KEEP IT POSITIVE!  What?  How?  Actually, it’s not that hard if you think about how exciting and fun  it would be to create a model responsible ownership community in our very own city.  Focus on the future possibilities. If you have been personally effected, that is important to share that experience, and this is not an attempt to marginalize your experience. We will share the facts of how BSL has been unsuccessful but the overall message should be positive as we explore how reversing the ban will reflect well on the city.

SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT!  Let the council know you support their efforts spent exploring the repeal of the ban, that you support the repeal, you support reckless owner laws, you support a safer and more humane Aurora, you support the Animal Care and Control in working with citizens and supporting organizations.  I will say it again.  SUPPORT!

Thank you for reading this through, happy advocating and as always, Take C.A.R.E!
Calm-Approachable-Respectful-Educated
Jennifer Bryant
Community Outreach Director
ColoRADogs
j.bryant@ColoRADogs.org

Aurora Colorado may reconsider their ban

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 coloradogs1@gmail.com.