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Denver Ends Pit Bull Ban After 30 Years, Though Some Restrictions Still Apply

Amy Pilkington 13 Feb 2020

In 1989, the city of Denver passed breed-specific legislation (BSL) banning three "pit bull" breeds: American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Now in 2020, they have voted to repeal the ban, though with some new licensing requirements.

I'm sure it took only those two paragraphs for many readers to make up their minds about this choice, one way or another.

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There are those on one side of the debate who believe that all "bully breeds" should be banned, because they are aggressive and dangerous.

And the other side argues that they are misunderstood and no specific breed should ever be banned or killed.

Both tend to have statistics on their side, which often just means the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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Pit bulls have a long and complicated history.

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To begin with, there is no one "pit bull" breed, but actually four. The original is the American Pit Bull Terrier, which was bred for fighting in the 1800s.

However, the American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and American Bully breeds were not.

While the OG pit bulls were a motley lot, the following three breeds were developed specifically to fit American Kennel Club breed and conformity expectations.

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Before WWII, the breed was even popular and seen as an "everyman's" dog.

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According to an interview with National Geographic, Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, the negative press began in the 1970s during the attempts to curb the last of the illegal dog-fighting rings.

"In order to do that, they partnered with the media to put dog fighting on the front page of every newspaper in America. In doing so, they encouraged wild speculations about these dogs that were not based in science or historical fact—things like they have 5,000 pounds of jaw pressure."

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So basically, they managed to make people terrified of the dogs, while also failing to actually stop the illegal actions they were trying to fight.

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In fact, Dickey argues, "The more terrified everyone became, the more people who probably should not have had these dogs, wanted them."

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Over the years, negative press has built up around the dogs, alongside confusion over what a pit bull actually is.

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Plenty of pet owners with short-coated, sturdy dogs will tell you that people will just angrily assume their dog is a pit bull.

It's pretty much impossible to get clear statistics. If a shih tzu bites a child, it's unlikely to make the news, but a pit bull would, skewing perceptions.

People with bully breeds, even in places without bans, may not socialize their dogs as much due to that public perception, making the dog less accustomed to people and kids, perpetuating the cycle.

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Denver's new legislation takes that into account with a reasonable compromise.

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While the three bully breeds are no longer banned, owners are limited to two per household.

Additionally, they will be required to get a provisional license for the dogs, give full info on the owners, the address, a physical description of the dog, and provide proof that they are vaccinated and microchipped.

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If they maintain the license for three years without incident, then the dogs can graduate to a regular license.

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Personally, I think this is a great middle-ground. Will it stop criminals from just not licensing the dogs? Of course not, but it will let average, good people get the dog they feel most attached to and save thousands of animals from unneeded euthanasia.

The repeal of the ban passed through Denver's legislative branch with a vote of 7-4, however the mayor hasn't yet signed it into law and says he's on the fence about it.

He has until February 14th to decide. If he doesn't veto it, but also fails to sign it by then, it will become law automatically.

h/t: Colorado Politics

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