With Ban In Place, Denver Euthanizing 3 Pit Bulls Daily

City Has Impounded 380 Pit Bulls, Destroyed 260 Since May

Since reinstating its pit bull ban in May Denver has impounded more than 380 pit bulls and is euthanizing them at an average rate of more than three a day.

Denver's strict pit bull ban has forced owners to take their dogs into hiding.

The city maintains the ban protects its residents. Others say the law should target irresponsible owners and all dangerous dogs and the city should not ban by breed.

Denver's is one the toughest pit-bull bans in the country. Only two other major metropolitan areas -- Miami and Cincinnati -- ban pit bulls, according to the American Canine Foundation.

A Colorado state law passed in 2004 had prohibited cities from banning specific breeds but Denver won a court challenge to the law.

Some dog owners are now in a panic and are sending their pets elsewhere or hiding them. Some residents have even resorted to moving to other cities to protect their pets. At least 260 pit bulls have been destroyed by the city of Denver since the ban was enforced.

Pit bull typically describes three kinds of dogs -- the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

But Denver's ban applies to any dog that looks like a pit bull. The animal's actual behavior does not matter.

City Councilman Charlie Brown said that in his judgment, "pit bulls are trained to attack. They're bred to do that."

Critics of the ban use words like "annihilation" and "genocide," and the city shelter has received e-mails likening animal control officers to Nazis.

Denver banned pit bulls in 1989 after dogs mauled a minister and killed a boy in separate attacks.

So just how dangerous are pit bulls?

The American Temperament Testing Society evaluated 122 breeds and found that the American Staffordshire Terrier, a type of banned pit bull in Denver, passed 83.3 percent of the time, just behind the golden retriever (83.6 percent).

The American Canine Foundation calculated rates of human dog-bite fatalities by breed and found that pit bulls bite at a lower rate than many other dogs. A Doberman Pinscher bites 10 times as much as a pit bull, the foundation reported.

Still, pit bulls and rottweilers have caused the most deaths, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States, which examined 20 years of dog-bite data.

That same study concluded fatal attacks "represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans, and therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs."

Julie Gilchrist, a CDC doctor who researches dog bites, said many factors go into biting risk, including the health of the dog and how the animal was raised.

A Denver district court ruled in 1990 pit bulls can be treated differently than other dogs because "there is credible evidence that pit bull dog attacks are more severe and more likely to result in fatalities."

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