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Pit bull activists bring Pit Fest to City Hall

Shorty Rossi and his pit bull posse are coming to town.
animal planet

Pit bull activists plan to give Denver's city government a dog-day afternoon on Friday with a protest outside the City and County Building, followed by Pit Fest, a concert and fundraiser on Saturday. And they'll have a special guest at both events: Shorty Rossi, a former actor and little person, who stars in Animal Planet's Pit Boss and is in Denver to film an episode; the show features Rossi's attempts to rescue and rehabilitate pit bulls.

The issue is particularly emotional here, where both Denver and Aurora have strict bans, known as breed-specific legislation, against pit bull ownership. "It's racism toward dogs, period, hands down," says Nick Dickson, the man behind Pit Fest. "The city council seems to think they know better than all the experts. Breed-specific legislation does not work. It costs millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars a year to to keep it going."

Pit Fest will feature at least ten bands at Bender's Tavern; tickets are $10 at the door, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mariah's Promise, a no-kill animal-rescue organization near Colorado Springs that specializes in placing pit bulls.

Westword covered the issue in a September 24, 2009, feature titled "Public Enemy #1." And pit bulls were back in the news last month, when the Denver City Council refused to allow people to use them as service dogs.

A producer for Pit Boss had asked Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown to give the city's side of the story on camera, but after the shootings in Tucson, Brown declined, citing security concerns and inflammatory rhetoric from pit bull fans. And one of those fans proceeded to fan the flames: After reading about Brown's refusal in Westword, he wrote that the councilman should "be forced" to go on TV to "justify the killing he has done. If he thinks killing innocent dogs and ruining people's lives is the right thing to do, he should be held accountable and should not be allowed to hide in his office when the time comes to speak out and defend his case."

Homemade: Like a good neighbor, Aaron Acker is here.

As the state government's newly appointed Homeowners Information Officer, it will be Acker's job to help both homeowners' associations (HOAs) and the people who live under their rules figure out where to go and what to do if they get into a dispute.

Created in 2010 by the HOA Ombudsman Bill, Acker's position became law on January 1; the Homeowners Information and Resource Center, which is part of the Division of Real Estate, will also track and register HOAs, as well as disputes.

And disputes arise quickly when it comes to HOAs, the groups who create and enforce tenets in particular neighborhoods. Take the Cherry Creek Farm HOA, for instance, whose former members waged a nasty two-year battle with subdivision homeowner Tom Myers last year ("Battlefield Suburbia," March 18, 2010). What started with a disagreement over a fence eventually devolved into shouting matches, legal action, and even physical confrontations involving the police.

While Acker may not have been able to diffuse that particular situation, he could have pointed both the HOA and Myers toward someone who could. He could also have provided both parties with information about their basic rights and responsibilities.

"Most of the disputes need to be resolved through civil litigation, and a lot of times, people and the HOAs don't know where they can go," says Acker, who is an attorney himself. "Sometimes the answers are as easy as explaining their responsibilities."

But Acker would have had to recuse himself from the Cherry Creek Farm drama: His aunt is coincidentally the new president of the HOA there.

"Obviously, that was an extreme case," he says. "I am going to try to be as balanced as possible and as unbiased as possible."


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