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Inside Denver's "Pit Bull Row"

In this week's Westword, Jared Jacang Maher investigates whether twenty years of outlawing pit bulls in Denver has made the city safer. (You can also read more about the numbers of dogs killed in "Pit Bull Row"). Here, a photo tour of the city's "pit bull row," the home of Denver's confiscated pit bulls (and the place where thousands have been euthanized over the years). Photos by Anthony Camera. Text by Maher. In 1989, Denver City Council passed a law banning pit bulls. Any dog suspected of having a majority mix of the breed is impounded at the municipal animal shelter at 678 South Jason Street. Suspected pit bulls are housed in a special section of the shelter known as "pit bull row." Each dog is evaluated by three shelter employees to see if it has the "the majority of the characteristics" of the three pit bull breeds defined in the ordinance: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. Since 1992, 5,286 pit bulls have been impounded by the city under the ordinance. This two-year-old dog, name unknown, has been designated an "illegal pit bull." Some pit bulls, such as this three-month-old puppy, are under "police hold" while their owners move through the court system in unrelated cases. Others, like two-year-old Chato, have been seized from their owners. Pit bulls can be released if their owners pay impound fees and provide proof that the dog will be relocated out of city limits, which could give dogs like one-year-old Diesel a second chance. The law prevents shelters in Denver from putting pit bulls up for adoption. So dogs like this one with no identified owner will only be released if staff can find space in shelters outside the city. But such arrangements are rare. The majority of the pit bulls impounded by the city are euthanized in this room. Under the ban, Denver has put down an estimated 3,497 pit bulls. From pick up to euthanization, it costs the city roughly $256 per pit bull. Doug Kelly became director of Denver's animal control in 2000. He can offer no definitive proof that the pit bull ban works. Still, his agency must enforce what's written in the ordinance.

For more information, read the Westword feature story on the pit bull ban, view charts and other data on dog bites in Denver, and check out a sidebar on how the City of Boulder is dealing with aggressive dogs without banning pit

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