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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Aurora Animal Shelter Finds A Way Around BSL Euthanasia

Even though the breed specific legislation has been in place since 2005, animal welfare organizations are still finding new ways around the restrictive laws. Aurora Animal Shelter, a government-funded shelter, is now transferring pit bulls from the Aurora location to other Colorado shelters where the breed ban is not in place. The first question I asked was, “Where are these pit bulls coming from if there is a city-wide pit bull ban?” While that alone should be a major indicator that the pit bull ban is not working, legislators are clearly not listening to facts when it comes to the breed ban so it is a bit of a moot point- at least for this post.

What is interesting is how many of the “illegal” dogs would have been euthanized in the past. But now, with new leadership and the same laws, these dogs are finding a positive outcome. With this system, it appears that pit bull type dogs are now being held to a standard more similar to other dogs. Still, I’m sure that the pit bull dogs are judged more harshly. And of course, they have to be. Aurora Animal Shelter is not the only organization that is looking to transport pit bulls so space is likely limited across the state.

This approach raises an interesting question about breed specific legislation in that the government animal control and sheltering facility, the same one intended to regulate this law, is the organization that is finding creative loopholes to work around it. If these dogs are so dangerous, then why should they be allowed to be house anywhere? Not only is BSL bad legislation in that it doesn’t solve any problem it is Not In My Backyard politics at its worst.

When we solve problems without considering the big picture we get short-sighted solutions. In the case of BSL, these solutions hurt dogs that are simply being placed up for adoption in surrounding counties without BSL laws. Are we seeing a high increase in dog bites in these areas?

What do you think?

 

 

 

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9 Facts About Breed Specific Legislation

“Breed-specific” legislation is yet another type of legislation that sounds good but actually does nothing. Unfortunately, these laws are generally based on either the most recent big-dog attack, or dog breeds that “look scary”.

BSL is obviously unjust, coming down harder on dogs than it does on poor owners. Not just that, but it’s also completely ineffective. Completely, utterly, and entirely ineffective. There’s plenty of evidence that proves exactly how ineffective it is.

Due to this fact, a number of cities, states, and even countries have been repealing their BSL laws. Unfortunately, Aurora is not one of those cities. Here in Aurora, we still have significant breed bans against a variety of bully type breeds.

The worst part is that many states consider dogs to be property, instead of members of the family. This is why these laws hurt even more. Not only do they break up families, but they treat dogs like objects.

If you’re unfamiliar with BSL, or you’re familiar with it but don’t know what you can do, here are some facts that can help you.

1. BSL Kills

Pit bulls have almost no chance when they’re put into public shelters. Some BSL laws demand they be euthanized immediately. Others euthanize simply because they know that no one will adopt the poor dog due to the restrictive law. Some shelters are able to put the dogs up for adoption but only adopt them out to areas in which there is no breed restriction. However, not all shelters and areas are so lucky.

2. No Evidence Exists That Banning Breeds Lowers The Number Of Dog Bites

“If it saves even one life, it’s worth it” some people will claim. Well, there simply isn’t a single shred of evidence that it saves even one life, so this argument falls flat.

3. While Pit Bulls Are Most Affected, Other Breeds Are Also Banned

The American Kennel Association gives only lip service to the temperament of purebred dogs, which is why there’s a stigma around certain breeds. However, pit bulls tend to score quite well on temperament tests.

As if that wasn’t enough, “pit bull” isn’t even a dog breed. Rather, the term is an umbrella term used to describe a certain type of terrier.

Because of this, dogs that have a similar appearance to “pit bulls” tend to get caught up in BSL laws. These can include dogs such as bulldogs, mastiffs, Doberman pinschers, the list goes on.

4. BSL Can Tear Apart Families

Since breed bans rarely grandfather in people who already own the banned breeds, the city can legally take your dog away from you. Because of the way the laws push good dogs out of good homes, mnay of these dogs end up euthanized.

5. Science Proves Breed Isn’t A Factor In Dog Bites

While no one is denying a large breed dog can produce a great deal of jaw strength, the National Canine Research Council has done research proving breed simply isn’t a factor in dog bite related fatalities. Rather, the factors include:

No one present to intervene (87.1% of fatalities are caused this way)

The dog being unfamiliar with the victim (85.2% of dog bites occur due to this factor)

Poor training by previous owner (37.5% of dog bites occur for this reason)

Neglect or abuse of dog by former owner (21.1% of bites are caused this way)

And of course, 80.5% of cases included more than one of these factors.

6. “Pit Bull” Is Subjective

As mentioned, “pit bull” isn’t actually a breed of dog. Since it refers to one of numerous dog breeds that share a similar appearance, shelter and city workers will often declare a dog to be a pit bull even if it’s not one of the breeds commonly associated with the term. As if that wasn’t enough, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association stated in a 2013 paper that in more than 80% of all dog bite cases, the breed of the dogs couldn’t be readily identified.

7. Most Major Organizations Oppose BSL

Pick an organization that you trust. The ASPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., the CDC, the American Animal Hospital Association, they’re all against BSL.

8. Even The Public Opposes BSL

The Best Friends Animal Society commissioned a poll to gauge public opinion on BSL. 84% of those surveyed said the government shouldn’t keep a person from owning any dog breed they wish.

9. BSL Wastes Money

The enforcement of any law requires funding, and this is no different for BSL laws. However, it’s even worse in the case of BSL, since there are literally no benefits to enacting the policy. In the city of Miami, it’s estimated that $603,445 is spent annually enforcing BSL. And yet, there’s not a single reduction in dog bites that can be connected to these laws.

What do you think Aurora taxpayers are forking out?

On the plus side, multiple organizations are working to get these laws repealed.

Here’s how you can help.

There are plenty of groups working on anti-BSL and pit bull advocacy. You could join one of them. A few suggestions are Stop BSL, Love-A-Bull, and Hershey Anti-BSL Group. Search for these groups on Facebook.

If you live in Aurora, where BSL laws are on the books, contact your representative. Voice a strong opinion against BSL to them. In addition, make certain to spay/neuter your dogs. The ASPCA has found more than 70% of all dog bites involve male dogs that are still territorial due to being unneutered.

Make sure to educate those you speak with. These laws sound so barbaric that many dog-lovers can’t imagine they exist. Tell them, and make sure they know.

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Over 10 Years of The Aurora Breed Ban

Since 2005, residents of Aurora have had to deal with a breed ban that is simply not an effective way of managing dangerous dogs. Numerous professional and legal organizations have come forward to strongly oppose the Aurora breed ban legislation. Some of these organizations include the American Bar Association, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the National Animal Control Association (NACA) and even the Center for Disease Control (CDC)- to name a few. Every single one of these organizations has conducted its own independent studies and research on the issue and have duly concluded that breed-specific laws are not the way to go. But yet they continue.

The truth of the matter is that the ban has not done anything to ensure the safety and well-being of the people of Aurora, Colorado. The number of dog bites in Aurora has actually increased over the years since the law was put into effect. Immediately after the law was passed, there was a surge in the number of cases of aggressive dogs in the city. The raw numbers clearly show that the enactment of legislation into law did absolutely nothing to improve the safety of the public. The reverse was however true.

Dog bites from targeted breeds only account for 15% of dog bites that occur in Aurora. The remaining 85% of dog bite cases are from breeds that are not targeted by the ban. Most people are not aware of these crucial facts. Even with this information right out there in the open many media outlets in the Aurora and Denver area are not willing to publish these facts. The facts simply aren’t as interesting as sensationalizing the next dog bite.

Over the years, many people who have supported the ban including Aurora City Council members have come to realize that it has done more harm than good. This realization has been long overdue despite the supporting factual information that is there for people to see. The truth of the matter is that public safety has not improved because of the enactment of this legislation into law. The people behind the ban in the first place have been strongly criticized for not approaching the issue with fairness and open minds. The different opinions regarding the ban have led some crucial figures in Aurora to associate the banned dog breeds with certain social classes of people and races. Such associations are obviously beside the point and they do not help to address the big issue of public safety that is in everyone’s mind.…

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