AURORA | Pit bull advocates are set to howl at city hall like it’s 2005.
The city’s Public Safety Committee is slated to consider a proposal Tuesday that would rescind the city’s ban on pit bulls — a topic that has lead to some of the most-heated debates at city hall in recent memory.
Tuesday’s meeting, which is just the first step in what could be a lengthy process, is expected to draw such a large crowd that city officials have moved it to city council chambers, which can accommodate a much larger crowd than the meeting room it was initially scheduled in.
Councilwoman Renie Peterson is pushing the measure and said she expects a contentious debate. If the matter makes it before the full council, Peterson said she expects the vote to be very close.
“You just don’t really know until you get there,” she said.
The city’s Animal Care division has come out against lifting the ban, arguing it has worked well and lifting it would mean a flood of pit bulls from other metro-area cities where the dogs are still banned.
“The ban on pit bulls continues to effectively work as intended,” animal care staffers wrote in a memo urging council to keep the ban.
Under the city’s current rules, three breeds of dogs commonly recognized as pit bulls — American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers — are banned within the city limits. When city council first enacted the ban in 2005, there were 10 breeds barred from the city, but council in 2011 softened the ban to just three breeds and gave owners a chance to have their dog DNA-tested to prove whether they were in fact a banned breed.
Dogs who were already in the city at the time of the ban were allowed to stay if their owners paid a registration fee and followed certain restrictions.
According to the city’s numbers, about 90 registered pit bulls remain in the city, down from about 500 when the ban took effect. The city has euthanized more than 1,100 restricted-breed dogs since the ban.
Peterson said her plan calls for lifting the ban, but requiring owners of the three banned breeds to carry homeowners or renters insurance. It also increases the cost of a fine for owners of dogs that bite someone.
Under the ban, Peterson said there are people in Aurora who have pit bulls, but don’t get the dogs vaccinated or take them to the veterinarian out of fear that the dog will be seized.
“At least we are giving the people who are underground now the opportunity to come out,” she said.
Debates regarding the ban have often been acrimonious over the years, and some pit bull advocates are hoping to avoid that this time around.
Jennifer Bryant, community outreach director for ColoRADogs, a nonprofit that has been working with Peterson to lift the ban, said she has asked other advocates to keep the discussion calm and friendly.
“We could have some really productive discussion on how to move forward in Aurora if we can keep the discussion focused,” she said. “There is no reason for vitriol.”
About 50 other cities around the country have lifted their ban in recent years, according to figures from Aurora Animal Control. Still, more than 500 cities around the country and several other nations still ban certain breeds.
Opponents of the ban hope if Aurora drops its ban it could lead to similar measures in other states.
Juliet Piccone, a lawyer who has represented several clients cited for having a banned breed, said Aurora is an important first step in Colorado.
“That is the hope, but Denver is the one we really need to work on,” she said.
Denver’s ban has been in place since 1989.