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Pit bull service-dog ban in Aurora set to fall, but councilman favors other restrictions on breed

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In December, Denver City Council rejected a service-dog exemption to its longtime pit bull ban, despite a lawsuit claiming the rule breaks federal law. Aurora faced a similar dilemma, and while the city council is on the cusp of creating the same kind of exemption Denver rejected, one member is reluctant to toss out the entire ban.

In councilman Bob Broom's view, Aurora's pit bull ban has been very successful. "Statistics show that the number of bites have gone way down, and we haven't had any severe incidents with pit bulls since the ordinance has been in place," he says.

Nonetheless, he's supportive of an exemption for service dogs.

"What triggered this coming back up were some new regulations," Broom notes, referring to federal guidelines that disallowed restricting any breed, including pit bulls, from designation as service dogs. As he points out, "the Denver City Council has decided they're going to fight the federal government on this matter. They want to keep theirs in place." However, the city attorney in Aurora has recommended taking the opposite course, and Broom says, "I agree."

Why? The cost in both funds and time of challenging the feds is one factor, he concedes. But he also believes "dogs are very well trained when they're service dogs. And just the way they're handled, there's far less of a likelihood that they're going to do harm to anybody."

What about the possibility that people will claim their pets are service dogs even if that's not the case in order to qualify for the exemption? In Broom's words, "nothing's ever perfect in this world, I guess -- and if we determine that turns out to be a problem, we'll have to address it again in the future."

Objections to the service-dog exemption have already arisen, some of them very vocal. This week, Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry wrote that "city lawmakers chickened out, deferring to the big dogs in DC," and denigrated the pro-pit-bull crowd in the following paragraph:

The proponents are the type who like to drag their beloved doggies to protests, where "Schnookems" is held back by a tow chain and happily pants for the cameras, licking leftover morsels of smaller dogs from his chops. Call me a coward, but I've been on the unnerving, barking end of several of these animals, and I have no doubt that I, too, would be a disabled American had there not been a strong chain, an immovable fence or a plate glass window between the two of us. I've tried to explain that there are many people like myself who don't want to take a chance that the scary bark of "Schnookems" is worse than his lethal bite.

Nonetheless, Broom expects the full council to make the exemption law in short order, and he's pledged his support. Thus far, however, he's less inclined to back two other proposals currently floating through the council. One would reduce the number of breeds listed in Aurora's current ban from nine to two, with pit bulls still blacklisted. The other suggests doing away with the ban entirely.

These last two ideas "are going back to our neighborhood services committee for review, and then after the review, they'll go back to city council for consideration," Broom says. And while he doesn't want to pin down his position yet, since neither measure has been officially drafted thus far, he's cool to both concepts. He doesn't think Aurora's pit bull ban is broken, so there's no need to fix it.

"Unless something comes along to change my mind," he maintains, "that's the way I'm going to vote."

More from our News archive: "Pit bull protest photo gallery: Could service-dog rule put a bite in Denver's ban?"

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