A Crack In The Wall Of Denver Breed Specific Legislation

While this story is a bit dated at this point we think it bears repeating. It is a story of about the first bit of sense in over two decades of BSL madness. 

But first, a little context.

You have to realize that not everyone who enforces the law wants the law to be in place. Shelter workers and animal control officers didn’t get into the animal welfare field to demonize specific breeds. Just like in any industry, there is good and bad. Now this change isn’t a result of an undercover anti-BSL agent (though we could use one).

But it is a crack in the wall that is breed specific legislation.

Sometimes the best way to change a law is to chip away at it slowly. For example, the shelter workers at Aurora animal control do not overtly disregard the breed ban but they do find a way to defend banned dogs by placing them in other areas. A great way to show that these dogs aren’t what they are made out to be.

Denver has come up with something similar in the case of making service animals exempt from the breed specific legislation. On April 5th, 2011, the Director of Animal Care and Control for Denver mandated that moving forward, officers “will not immediately impound a pit bull that is identified as a service animal by the owner.”

This is in response to the wave of legal action taken by people with disabilities who use pit bulls as service animals. These folks were having their service animals taken away or threatened to be taken away. Denver Animal Control decided the best move was to make these animals exempt from the ban rather than take animals from disabled people.

What is most interesting about the change is that it adds a different perspective to the way pit bulls are viewed by Denver animal control. Since they wanted to leave themselves room to seize dangerous dogs that mandate suggests that animal control officers “verify…owner’s claim that their pit bull is qualified as service animal”. That alone presents as difficult a problem as identifying which dog is greater than 50% pit bull as the criteria and credentials for service animals in Colorado is notoriously difficult to pin down. With the increased popularity of “emotional support” dogs, a number of service dogs have been steadily increasing.

But beyond yet is the really interesting part of this change. The document asks for officers to examine the pit bull’s current and historical behavior along with whether or not the dog “”tolerate[s] strange sights, sounds, odors,” and if it can “ignore food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity.”

As strange and somewhat arbitrary as that seems it is a different approach. It shows a qualitative approach that looks at the individual animal rather than painting a big wrong picture. And looking at the individual case is, after all, all that we want. Freedom to discuss the behavior of the dog and the background of that specific animal would hopefully decrease the stigma that the public places on pit bull dogs. 

I don’t’ think this will lead to the BSL being overturned anytime soon but this does introduce the option to look at dogs on an individual basis.

And that’s the first step.

Let me know what you think!

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