Pit bull ban stirs emotional debate in Castle Rock

Town could repeal breed ban, replace with behavior-based system

Posted 2/5/18

At an open house in Castle Rock last spring, residents filed into town hall to offer comment on the town's animal code. Issues ranged from backyard chickens to pet licensing. One issue, however, came …

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Pit bull ban stirs emotional debate in Castle Rock

Town could repeal breed ban, replace with behavior-based system

Posted

At an open house in Castle Rock last spring, residents filed into town hall to offer comment on the town's animal code. Issues ranged from backyard chickens to pet licensing.

One issue, however, came to the forefront of discussion. The town was floating an idea to repeal its breed-specific dog ban, which prohibits pit bulls, and replace it with a system regulating a dog's behavior, not breed. Castle Rock's ban on pit bulls was put into place in 1992, a few years after Denver instated its ban following the death of a 3-year-old in a pit bull attack.

Staff is now officially recommending Castle Rock repeal the breed ban, saying it's difficult and costly to enforce. There's no date set for town council to review that recommendation, but already, debate is swirling on the issue.

Under the proposed system, dogs that bite people or domestic animals would be classified in one of two categories — “potentially dangerous” or “dangerous” — based on the severity of the victim's injuries.

The Town of Castle Rock declined to comment on the proposal, but documents and information presented at open houses show officials tout the behavior-based system allows officials to handle incidents on a case-by-case basis, using the two categories and individual circumstances around an event to make decisions.

They also argue breed-specific bans are difficult to enforce.

Determining if a dog falls under a banned breed requires authorities to visually inspect the dog and measure 27 different attributes, such as height, weight, eye shape, bite, neck length and gait.

“A dog may look like a dog subject to a breed ban, but not have the DNA of a banned breed,” reads town documents. “Or, a dog may not look like one subject to the breed ban, but might have the DNA of a banned breed. This is particularly true where a dog is not purebred.”

The documents say it's unknown how many pit bulls may live in town.

Drive began in 2017

In January 2017, Castle Rock resident Jen Dudley spearheaded a campaign dubbed “End Castle Rock BSL” in support of repealing the ban.

“I'm totally against breed bans. They're a violation of personal property rights and responsible dog owners,” she said. “The government has no right to come into your home and tell you what kind of domesticated dog you can have.”

Dudley is advocating for diverting taxpayer money currently spent on enforcing breed-specific bans to promoting leash laws and funding programs that teach responsible dog ownership.

She's also in favor of the behavior-based system Castle Rock is proposing.

“I believe that every dog should be judged by its individual behavior,” she said. “Taking a dog that hasn't done anything doesn't increase public safety.”

Still, the proposal has met fierce opposition from those who support breed bans. Nearly a year ago, Red Hawk Townhomes resident Michael Forti confronted the town about a neighbor's pit bull, angered over the dog's presence and the town's slow-going in removing it.

Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley said then that authorities normally allow dog owners time to relocate a pit bull. Most violators say they were unaware of the town's ban. When the Red Hawk Townhomes dog owner failed to remove his animal, officers cited him. It was then officers learned the dog was an emotional-support animal.

The case was moved to the municipal court and town legal staff began researching precedent for such a scenario, but the situation became one more reason the town said it was reviewing its animal code and the breed-specific ban.

Forti says as a victim of a pit bull attack, the issue is personal. He can still recall how, more than 10 years ago, he was at work as a paint contractor in an Aurora townhome community when a pit bull escaped its yard and attacked him. Bystanders were able to pull him away from the dog, but memory of the incident remains vivid.

“Then all of a sudden, I'm living at Red Hawk Townhomes,” he said, “and the same exact thing was happening, except no one got mauled.”

Forti explained in light of his own experience, he considers the breed “silent but deadly.” There was no warning before he was attacked, he said, and he fears allowing pit bulls into town would enable similar incidents to happen.

Forti asked: “Are we waiting for somebody to get mauled and somebody to get hurt?”

Dudley has a response to the victims of pit bull attacks.

“Anyone who is attacked by a dog is a victim,” she said.

But she also believes attacks are more often a result of irresponsible ownership, something Forti also acknowledged, and not a dog's breed.

From Forti's perspective, however, irresponsible dog ownership paired with a breed capable of inflicting severe injury is a recipe for disaster, and good reason for a breed ban.

“There's always going to be opposition, and that's fine,” Dudley said. “I say to them, come to the open houses. Talk to animal control.”

Comments pour in

For those on either side of the debate, pit bull bans are often an emotional issue. Pro-ban and anti-ban groups are each armed with statistics and research they say proves their side of the issue.

The potential repeal of a breed ban in Castle Rock has also garnered widespread attention, making it difficult for town staff to sift through public comment it has received on the topic.

In a Dec. 5 memo, staff said more than 400 comments concerning the animal code have poured in online, through the mail and at open houses. The majority focused on the breed-specific ban, but it was at times difficult to determine on which side commentators stood, and in some cases, whether they were town residents.

Results were further complicated, staff wrote, because the 128 comments in favor of lifting the ban could have been submitted by the same individual through more than one platform, as could the 30 comments in favor of keeping the ban in place.

The issues surrounding public comment are one reason Castle Rock resident George Hager said he intends to petition for a special election, so the “divisive” matter can be decided by voters.

Hager was unhappy with mailers sent by the town of Castle Rock, which he said didn't contain the words “dog” or “pit bull,” and didn't adequately inform residents that lifting the breed-specific ban would mean allowing pit bulls into town.

As a father of three, Hager said he's pro-ban but would respect the results of an election. He sees that as a better alternative than letting council consider the proposed two-tier system. In order to place issues on the ballot, citizens can petition or ask town council to refer the measure to the voters.

“I think it's useless. If a dog has to attack or maul somebody in order to be considered dangerous, the damage is already done,” he said. “I'm not trying to sell, 'Keep the ban.' I'm trying to sell, 'Let the people decide. Let the people vote.' ”

Comments

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Mike

I have had a pit or pit-mix for my entire life. Not a single one of my dogs has bitten anyone, not have they ever tried. Furthermore, I have numerous friends and family members that now have pit or pit mixes in their homes, as family dogs. This was a direct result of the positive experience and interaction with my dogs. Not a single one has had an incident. I don't understand how someone can consider themselves a animal/dog lover and be ok with any type of BSL. It results in the euthanization of thousands of dogs, many of which have done nothing wrong. I know of numerous people that have been bitten by labs, shepherds, etc., but no one that was bitten by a pit. They were absolutely everywhere where I grew up. Where do u draw an imaginary line of what is dangerous? It is entirely to subject to judge by breed and not the behavior of a dog. I see terribly behaved and aggressive dogs in my neighborhood every day. Should I scream to have the breeds removed and put down? I refuse to kill a dog for the ignorance of their owner. I do however agree, not everyone should own them.

Crystal Valley , Castle Rock

Tuesday, February 6
Lew

A lot of people have no experience with their pit biting and they declare all pits are safe. 110,000,000 Takata airbags were recalled because 16 malfunctioned. It is long past time to *recall* 3,500,000 pit bulls because every year, they kill twice as often as the recalled airbags. Public safety must win.

Pit bulls are not "mean" nor “aggressive” when they maim and kill any more than labs are mean or aggressive when they retrieve, pits simply maul and kill because of genetics. Denying the truth won't reduce the killings and maimings by these purpose bred blood sport animals. Spay and neuter pit bulls to extinction.

https://www.facebook.com/784811771645628/videos/798164500310355

#GeneticsMatters #BreedMatters #WontBackDown #SpayNeuterPitsToExtinction

Wednesday, February 7
Frank Horvath

According to the article, Jen Dudley said: “I'm totally against breed bans. They're a violation of personal property rights and responsible dog owners,” and “The government has no right to come into your home and tell you what kind of domesticated dog you can have.”

As a member of the Nextdoor Meadows Sun Catcher alias, I read about loose dogs all the time. I personally "rescued" several dogs that somehow got out of their owners' yard. So Jen Dudley can't guarantee that a dog she intends to keep in her house or yard won't get out. She also can't guarantee that dog owners will act responsibly if they owned pit bulls. Witness the recent discussion on the same alias where people's pets were attacked by dogs whose owners insisted on ignoring community rules... probably having the attitude that they shouldn't be told what to do by anyone. Rules exist so that we can peacefully coexist and it does require compromise.

I keep reading about pit bulls killing strangers and their owners. Here's a recent headline: "People couldn’t believe two dogs killed their owner. So the sheriff described the horror." They were pit bulls. Here're a couple short quotes: "[she]was mauled to death by her dogs while out on a walk last week." and "I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs observed,” Agnew said, then paused before continuing, “the dogs eating the rib cage on the body." ( Jim Agnew is Goochland County's Sheriff )

So before Jen Dudley lectures people about her rights to own a breed that has a history to injure, maul, and kill, she should remember that the rest of us in the community also have rights--including the right to live in peace and not in fear of some loose dog attacking us or our pets on leash.

I don't have all the answers. But to the extent it's enforceable I don't want to see a pit bull where I live.

My two cents.

Thursday, February 8
Mike

So you can breed in a trait but you can't breed it out? These dogs haven't been breed for fighting in decades if not centuries except in small isolated cases. They are in homes all over the country and many are mixed at this point any how. This is completely illogical.

Friday, February 9
Mike

Just a few... I can go on all day.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/01/23/persistent-pit-bull-dog-saves-owners-from-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

http://dogtime.com/trending/30095-5-pit-bulls-saved-owners-lives

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/29/pit-bulls-heroic-happy-and-good_n_5563496.html

Friday, February 9