Pit bull controversy: Was man justified to hammer Benny in the head after dog attack?

Jared Jacang Maher's 2009 Westword feature "For Two Decades, Pit Bulls Have Been Public Enemy #1 in Denver -- But Maybe It's Time for a Recount" examined Denver's controversial pit bull ban -- a subject further illuminated by photos of the city's pit bull row and leaked images of piled-up pit bulls killed due to the ordinance. Now comes a Channel 31 report that's capable of angering people on both sides of the debate.

The latest story revolves around a two-year-old pit bull mix named Benny. His owner, Arvada's Paul Willis, admits that Benny was aggressive, attacking a neighbor's dog when he tried to introduce the two animals. Then, earlier this week, Benny got loose and went after the neighbor's dog again. The neighbor managed to briefly separate the two, but when Benny immediately resumed the assault, he hit him in the head with the claw end of a hammer. Says Willis, "Benny was still alive and panting on the sidewalk. And then the neighbor said, 'Do you want to finish him off or should I?'"

In the end, animal-control officers euthanized Benny at the scene.

No charges have been filed against the neighbor. But what about Benny? Was he an unruly dog of the sort that can pop up in any breed? Or once-living proof that pit bulls as a group are a danger to communities? Judge for yourself after watching the Channel 31 report below:


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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.
Contact: Michael Roberts