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| Animals |

Metro Denver's Last Pit Bull Ban Is Bizarre and Brutal

An overhead view of Louisville, Colorado.
An overhead view of Louisville, Colorado.
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Pit bull bans and the widespread euthanizations that came with them were once common across the metro area. But both Denver and Aurora lifted their prohibitions against pits in recent months (although a new lawsuit contends that Aurora's actions were improper), and this week, Lone Tree followed suit.

According to the Denver Dumb Friends League, that leaves just one community in metro Denver that still nixes pit bulls: Louisville. But while city clerk Meredyth Muth confirms that "Louisville does have a pit bull ban in our code — it was enacted in 1994," the actual language of the rule is highly unusual.

It turns out that pit bulls are only banned in Louisville for those who don't obtain a special license for the breed. But the license has some extremely unusual requirements, including obtaining a mammoth amount of insurance for the dog in question, which must be either spayed or neutered — and the punishment for unauthorized puppies is brutal. In addition, there are mandates for the type of muzzle or leash to be used for the dog and the color of its collar. And the owner is supposed to publicly display a sign warning one and all that there's a pit bull in the vicinity.

Under the section of the Louisville city code related to pit bulls, owners must have "procured liability insurance in the amount of at least $100,000.00 per pit bull, covering any damage or injury caused or which may be caused by a pit bull during the 12-month period covered by the pit bull license." Moreover, the pit bull's spaying or neutering must be done "at the owner's expense," and should a female get pregnant and deliver a litter, "the owner must deliver the puppies to the Humane Society for disposition or destruction or permanently remove the puppies from the city and provide sufficient evidence of such removal by the time the puppies are weaned. In no event shall the owner be allowed to keep in the city a pit bull puppy born after April 9, 1994."

When a pit bull is on the owner's property, it must be kept "confined indoors, or in a secure enclosure," according to the Louisville laws, and while taking the dog to another location, "the owner shall keep the pit bull either securely leashed with a leash no longer than four feet in length capable of restraining the pit bull, and muzzled, or in a secure temporary enclosure."

Oh, yeah: The code emphasizes that "the owner shall cause the pit bull to wear at all times a fluorescent orange collar or harness which is of such size and color intensity as to be visible at a distance of not less than 50 feet by a person of reasonable vision." A pit bull owner must also post "at each possible entrance to the owner's property where the pit bull is kept a conspicuous and clearly legible pit bull sign. Such pit bull sign must be at least eight inches by ten inches in rectangular dimensions and shall contain only the words 'PIT BULL DOG' in lettering not less than two inches in height."

The Louisville City Council has the power to rescind or revise these edicts, but city clerk Muth confirms that doing so isn't on the 2021 agenda — though it could be added to the 2022 work plan, should members choose to do so. Until then, though, the city is the sole pit bull outlier in greater Denver.

Here's the section of the Louisville city code related to pit bulls:

Pit bulls prohibited

Summary: This code prohibits ownership of pit bulls within the city and provides certain exceptions.

A. Prohibition. It is unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport, or sell within the city any pit bull.

B. Exceptions. The prohibition in subsection A of this section shall not apply in the following enumerated circumstances. Failure by the owner to comply and remain in compliance with all of the terms of any applicable exception shall subject the pit bull to immediate impoundment and disposal pursuant to subsection F of this section, and shall operate to prevent the owner from asserting such exception as a defense in any prosecution under subsection A of this section.

1. The owner of a pit bull, who has applied for and received a pit bull license in accordance with subsection C of this section, and who maintains the pit bull at all times in compliance with the pit bull license requirements of subsection C of this section and all other applicable requirements of this chapter, may keep a pit bull within the city.

2. A person may temporarily transport into and keep in the city a pit bull only for the purpose of showing the pit bull in a place of public exhibition, contest or show sponsored by a dog club association or similar organization. However, the sponsor of the exhibition, contest, or show must receive written permission from the chief of police, must obtain any other permits or licenses required by city ordinance, and must provide protective measures adequate to prevent pit bulls from escaping or injuring the public. The person who transports and keeps a pit bull for showing shall, at all times when the pit bull is being transported within the city to and from the place of exhibition, contest, or show, keep the pit bull confined in a secure temporary enclosure.

3. The owner of a pit bull may temporarily transport through the city a pit bull only if the pit bull is, at all times when the pit bull is within the city, kept confined in a secure temporary enclosure.

4. Temporary boarding of a pit bull for care and treatment by a licensed veterinarian in a veterinary hospital or clinic shall be permitted.

C. License. The owner of any pit bull located in the city on or before April 9, 1994, shall be allowed to keep such pit bull within the city upon compliance with the terms of the exception contained in subsection B of this section only if the owner applies for and receives an annual pit bull license on or before April 9, 1994. As a condition of issuance of a pit bull license, the owner shall at the time of application comply with or otherwise provide sufficient evidence that the owner is in compliance with all of the following regulations:

1. The owner of the pit bull shall provide proof of rabies vaccination and shall pay the annual pit bull license fee as established by resolution of the city council.

2. The owner of the pit bull shall keep current the license for such pit bull through annual renewal. The license is not transferable and shall be renewable only by the holder of the license or by a member of the immediate family of the licensee. A pit bull license tag will be issued to the owner at the issuance of the license. The license tag shall be attached to the pit bull by means of a collar or harness and shall not be attached to any pit bull other than the pit bull for which the license is issued. If the pit bull tag is lost or destroyed, a duplicate tag may be issued upon the payment of a fee as established by resolution of the city council.

3. The owner of the pit bull must be at least 18 years of age on or before April 9, 1994.

4. The owner shall present to the chief of police proof that the owner has procured liability insurance in the amount of at least $100,000.00 per pit bull, covering any damage or injury caused or which may be caused by a pit bull during the 12-month period covered by the pit bull license. The insurance shall contain a provision requiring the insurance company to provide written notice to the chief of police not less than 15 days prior to any cancellation, termination, or expiration of the policy.

5. The owner shall, at the owner's expense, have the pit bull spayed or neutered and shall present to the chief of police documentary proof from a licensed veterinarian that this sterilization has been performed.

6. At all times when a pit bull is on the property of the owner, the owner shall keep the pit bull confined indoors or in a secure enclosure. At all times when a pit bull is away from the property of the owner, the owner shall keep the pit bull either securely leashed with a leash no longer than four feet in length capable of restraining the pit bull, and muzzled, or in a secure temporary enclosure.

7. The owner shall not sell or otherwise transfer the pit bull to any resident of the city who intends to keep the pit bull within the city except a member of the owner's immediate family who will then become the owner and will be subject to all of the provisions of this section. The owner shall notify the department of police within five days in the event that the pit bull is lost, stolen, otherwise missing, dies, or has a litter. In the event of a litter, the owner must deliver the puppies to the Humane Society for disposition or destruction or permanently remove the puppies from the city and provide sufficient evidence of such removal by the time the puppies are weaned. In no event shall the owner be allowed to keep in the city a pit bull puppy born after the April 9, 1994. Any pit bull puppies kept contrary to the provisions of this subdivision are subject to immediate impoundment and disposal pursuant to subsection E of this section.

8. The owner shall cause the pit bull to wear at all times a fluorescent orange collar or harness which is of such size and color intensity as to be visible at a distance of not less than 50 feet by a person of reasonable vision.

9. The owner shall have posted at each possible entrance to the owner's property where the pit bull is kept a conspicuous and clearly legible pit bull sign. Such pit bull sign must be at least eight inches by ten inches in rectangular dimensions and shall contain only the words "PIT BULL DOG" in lettering not less than two inches in height.

D. Records. The department of police shall maintain a file containing the registration number, name, owner's name and address of all pit bulls licensed under this section. The owner shall notify the department of police of any change of address.

E. Impoundment. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the animal control officer or police officer shall be authorized to immediately impound any pit bull found in the city which does not fall within the exceptions listed in subsection B of this section, and may impound and dispose of such pit bull as the chief of police deems appropriate, except as the procedures in subsection F of this section, otherwise require.

F. Petition regarding classification.

1. When the code enforcement officer or member of the department of police has impounded any pit bull pursuant to this section, and the owner of such dog disputes the classification of the dog as a pit bull, the owner may file a written petition with the chief of police for an administrative hearing concerning such classification no later than seven days after impoundment. Such petition shall include the name and address, including mailing address, of the petitioner.

2. The chief of police will issue a notice of hearing date by mailing a copy to the petitioner's address no later than five days prior to the date of the hearing. Where no written request from the owner for a hearing is received by the chief of police within seven days after impoundment, the pit bull shall be destroyed or immediately and permanently removed from the city.

3. The hearing, if any, will be held before the chief of police or a hearing officer designated by the chief of police. Any facts which the petitioner wishes to be considered shall be submitted under oath or affirmation either in writing or orally at the hearing. At the hearing, the city shall bear the burden of proof that the impounded dog is a pit bull by a preponderance of the evidence.

4. The chief of police or the designated hearing officer shall make a determination whether the dog is a pit bull. Such determination shall be considered a final order of the city on the matter unless, within seven calendar days after the determination, the petitioner files a written appeal of the determination with the city manager. In such a case, the written appeal shall set forth the reasons for the petitioner's objections. The city manager or city manager's designee shall review the determination based upon the evidence presented at the hearing and issue a complete and final order, which shall be final upon issuance, subject to review under Rule 106(a)(4) of the state rules of civil procedure.

5. If the dog is found to be a pit bull as alleged, and the owner produces evidence deemed sufficient by the chief of police or the designated hearing officer that the pit bull is to be permanently taken out of the city and the owner pays the cost of impoundment and of the hearing, which shall include any cost of any test performed to determine if the animal is a pit bull, the animal shall be released to its owner. If the director does not deem such evidence to be sufficient, the animal shall be destroyed, but the owner shall remain liable for such costs. If the dog is found not to be a pit bull, the dog shall be released to the owner.

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