Pit Bulls Most Euthanized Dog Breed on Front Range

Earlier this week, we posted about the ten dog breeds with the most and fewest bites in Denver, featuring material culled from a new 9News study. The station has now followed up with a report revealing the breeds most frequently euthanized along the Front Range -- and pit bulls top the list by a substantial margin.

That's no surprise given Denver's long-running pit-bull ban and its euthanization history, which we've detailed in an investigation of our own.

See also: 3,497 Dead Dogs and Other Numbers From Denver's Pit Bull Ban, published in September 2009

According to 9News, the breeds that were most frequently euthanized in the area circa 2013 were as follows:
1. Pit Bulls -- 766 2. Labs -- 435 3. Chihuahuas -- 337 4. German Shepherds -- 230 5. Bulldogs -- 169
Not all of these dogs were euthanized for biting. The station points out that of 4,800 dogs put down in Front Range shelters, about a quarter were for medical reasons and approximately half due to "being 'aggressive' or having 'high arousal.'" However, pit bulls finished third in the outlet's roster of most dog bites in the metro area between 2012 and 2014, with 152 -- behind German Shepherds, with 169, and Labradors, with 222.

Data about pit bull bites in Denver over a longer period time was culled by writer Jared Jacang Maher and current Backbeat editor Kiernan Maletsky for a 2009 feature article about the city's pit bull ban. Here's a look at graphics and excerpts from Maher's sidebar post on the topic.

First, we looked at the number of bites recorded by Denver Animal Care and Control going back to 1990, the first full year the breed ban was in effect.
Aside from a bump in 2004 when enforcement of the ban was temporarily suspended, reported bites from pit bulls in Denver have stayed relatively static -- around twelve per year. What is notable is the significant drop in dog bites of all breeds, from 1,146 in 1990 to 305 in 2008. Animal control officials attribute this decrease in total bites to increased enforcement of Denver's non-breed specific dog laws and county-wide spaying and neutering efforts.
Some studies on dog bites show pit bulls and Rottweilers as inflicting the most reported bites; others show Golden Retrievers, Labs and Chow Chows as causing the most. But is this because these breeds bite more often or because more of these dogs are represented in a given area? Since there's no reliable doggy census, it's nearly impossible to know if one breed bites more often than another.
Proponents of breed bans, such as Denver Assistant City Attorney Kory Nelson, instead argue that pit bulls are more dangerous because, when they do bite, the injuries they inflict are more serious. So we looked at figures gathered by the Colorado Department of Public and Environment on hospitalization rates for dogs by county. From 1995 to 2006, more people sought medical attention for dog bites in Denver County than anywhere else in the state. Counties without pit bull bans -- Boulder, El Paso and Jefferson -- showed fewer people going to the hospital dog bites.
Denver has impounded 5,286 dogs under its pit bull ordinance [as of 2009]. In 1992, the third full year of the ban, Denver impounded 27 pit bulls. In 2000, the number increased exponentially until its height of 1,011 in 2005, when animal control began to enforce the ordinance after a one-year moratorium. Last year, 354 pit bulls were impounded.
The more pit bull that are impounded, the more pit bulls are euthanized. In 2005 and 2006, Denver put 1,453 pit bulls to death. City staff only had euthanization numbers back to 2002. But by applying the impound/euthanization rate to the previous ten years, we estimate that at least 3,497 pit bulls have been euthanized under Denver's ban [as of 2009].
But which breeds have killed in Colorado? As this list reveals, out of nine reported dog attack fatalities in the state since 1980 [to 2009], pit bulls were responsible for two.
To read Maher's feature article on Denver's pit bull ban, click here.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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