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Lawsuit Threatened to Stop Aurora From Repealing Pit Bull Ban

A photo from our slideshow "Parade of Pit Bulls 2013."
A photo from our slideshow "Parade of Pit Bulls 2013."
Photo by Darian Simon
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On January 11, Aurora City Council voted to toss out its prohibition on ownership of the most common pit bull breeds. The new rule is scheduled to go into effect toward the end of February — but not if Matt Snider has anything to say about it.

A longtime Aurora resident, Snider has filed an intent to sue the city over the council's actions, claiming that it essentially invalidates a 2014 vote on the issue, when Aurora residents stood behind the pit bull ban by around a 2-1 margin.

"Please accept this Notice of Intent to File Suit in regard to the recent action by the Aurora City Council...to nullify the prior, nearly two-thirds majority vote of the electors [of] the City of Aurora to maintain a ban on pit bulls within the city," his filing reads. "This action taken by the City Council has the effect of nullifying my vote and disenfranchising me and the other Aurora voters from their legal, bona fide action to direct the City Council, in our vote of November 4, 2014, to maintain that pit bull ban. The City Council does not have the right or authority under the City Charter nor the Colorado Constitution to nullify the expressed will and direction of the people and instead substitute their judgment on the issue."

Snider adds: "To the extent that my vote, and the vote of nearly two-thirds majority of the registered electors of the City of Aurora will be nullified by operation of the City Council's proposed action, we will be irreparably harmed as of February 25, 2021, which is thirty days following the second reading of the proposed action.... Therefore, unless some mutually acceptable solution can be reached on or before February 25, 2021, I will be compelled to file suit in the Colorado Supreme Court to block the City Council's action to prevent my vote, and many others, from being nullified and discarded."

In his filing, Snider says, "While public safety is a serious concern where dogs are concerned, my paramount interest in this issue is solely directed to the issue of nullifying a previous election decision of the voters. Elected representatives on the council are supposed to be servants, not rulers, and in view of the accusations of voter disenfranchisement and fraud in the most recent presidential election, we are all hyper-sensitive to this issue at the moment. This, for me, however, is a cause celebre on any day. Council members should not, and, in my view, do not have the authority to disregard a direct vote of the people on the specific issue, regardless of their reason or rationale. The city council put this exact issue out to the people. The people voted against removing the pit bull ban and therefore, the city council, which derives its authority from the consent of the voters, does not have the legal authority to reverse the expressed will of the people since it has yielded its authority to the people on this specific issue."

Snider admits that "I am loathe to file a lawsuit against the City, since I really do not want to burden the city with unnecessary expense and legal action. I will only do so reluctantly to block what I consider to be a grave infringement on the rights of the Aurora voters."

His remedy? "The City Council should put the pit bull ban back out to the voters with the exact same wording as on the ballot of November 4, 2014 in the next election. This only requires a few column inches on the ballot and minimal expense. If the voters affirm the pit bull ban, it shall remain. If the voters allow the removal of the pit bull ban, then the City Council should draft new ordinances in compliance with the voters' directive."

City of Aurora spokesperson Michael Bryant offers this response to a possible lawsuit: "When considering changes to the restricted breed ordinance, the Aurora City Council was advised that the regulations were originally adopted by ordinance. The question put before voters in 2014 did not contain language binding the city but rather was advisory in nature. After recently adopting dangerous-dog legislation, the City Council chose to change the breed restrictions by ordinance."

Still, Snider is proceeding. "I have spoken to a couple of attorneys and am in the process of hiring a well-known one," he says. He's also taken his case to the court of public opinion; click to hear his recent appearance on KHOW's Ross Kaminsky Show.

Snider has "until late February to file and hopefully get an injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect until the Colorado Supreme Court can hear the case on the merits," he notes. "I would, however, rather simply get the city council to withdraw the proposed, rewritten ordinance and put the same ballot language as in 2014 back out to the voters. If that happens, I won’t file. Perhaps my attorney can get the city to be agreeable to that."

Click to read the notice of intent to sue over the Aurora pit bull ordinance.

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