Last night, May 1, the Castle Rock town council voted unanimously to adopt a new animal ordinance that effectively ends the community's prohibition on pit bulls. Advocates for pit bulls are overjoyed by this turn of events and feel optimistic that the move will trigger new efforts to overturn similar bans in six other Colorado cities.
Among the latter is Denver, which has euthanized thousands of dogs judged to be pit bulls over nearly three decades, as illustrated by the photo above, leaked to Westword in 2009 following the publication of a feature article marking the twenty-year anniversary of the rule in the Mile High City.
Activist Jen Dudley is cheering the latest development. "All present Council Members (5) have voted in favor of the new ordinance!" she wrote on the Facebook page for End Castle Rock BSL [Breed Specific Legislation], the group that spearheaded the effort to eliminate the pit bull ban in the community. "IT OFFICIALLY PASSES!! Castle Rock BSL has ENDED!!!!!"
For a Westword item published on April 17, prior to the ordinance's first reading, Dudley noted that the then-current code included "a section called the 'dangerous dog act,' and it's only two paragraphs. Basically, if your dog bites somebody and the owners are convicted of possessing a dangerous dog, that dog either has to leave town or be euthanized. And it also prohibits the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and any dog that possesses more than 50 percent of those breeds' characteristics based on a 27-point visual-characteristic check. So if the dog is found to be 51 percent pit bull, they're not allowed in town. And it's pretty ridiculous to think that 1 percent makes a dog aggressive and dangerous."
The replacement, Dudley went on, "is a two-tier, behavior-based, breed-neutral ordinance for potentially dangerous and dangerous dogs, and it's incredibly comprehensive. Your dog doesn't have to bite someone in order to be classified as potentially dangerous, and it really holds the owners responsible for the actions of their dogs, because it allows for court-mandated preventative measures to make sure the dog's behavior doesn't escalate. There's an opportunity for rehabilitation, too. It lets the court mandate education and retraining classes and even a higher enclosed fence."
The dangerous-dog section, meanwhile, "remains the same, but now it's breed-neutral. No matter what kind of dog you have, if it's deemed dangerous, it still has to leave town or be euthanized."
To Dudley, the increase in options makes sense. Legitimately dangerous dogs will still be removed from the community, she pointed out, "but now animal control and the court system can enhance public safety without instantly removing a dog that may have had a minor incident or that looks a certain way. And it also allows for the education of the owner so that problems can be avoided in the future."
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Pit Bulls Against Discrimination, a national organization fighting breed-specific legislation, echoed Dudley's words. A Facebook post from the group reads, "Friends I cannot tell you enough how big of a deal this is! Castle Rock, Colorado is just south of Denver and Aurora, which have probably the most heinous BSL laws in the country. Thousands of dogs who even look like pit bulls have been killed in these towns. Hopefully this will put more pressure on them to finally end the slaughter of our beloved breed!"
Countering opinions like these are groups such as Protect Children From Pit Bulls And Other Dangerous Dogs, which sees the Castle Rock move as potentially tragic.
A post about the move to change Castle Rock's ordinance maintains that "the issue of public safety policy in relationship to 'pit bulls' has one undeniable truth — well written pit bull bans have a 100 percent success rate in the courts, with each and every case having the same exact ruling: Pit Bulls ARE more dangerous than other breeds of dogs, so government’s differential treatment of them is rationally related to the legitimate, and often cited as THE primary, governmental interest — the safety of the humans the government serves. It is that amazingly consistent ruling, over and over again, that should be recognized for the ultimately significant reality — this Truth cannot be denied by rational people. Therefore, with the danger being unique to Pit Bulls, and government acting within its primary purpose being reaffirmed as being 'rational' — only the question is by which manner should the government act."
Castle Rock, for its part, compiled data about dog bites prior to voting on the altered code and found that in the areas in and around town, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds accounted for more injuries than pit bulls did. Get additional details in our report "The Popular Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite You — and They're Not Pit Bulls."