Aurora debating, voting on whether to repeal or retain city's pit bull ban

Public safety threat or irresponsible owners?

AURORA, Colo - Aurora voters will soon decide whether to keep or repeal the city's 2006 pit bull ban, and it could be the most controversial issue on the ballot in that city.

"I love pit bulls," said Sharee Talbot, who feels like a member of her family is missing after her dog, Buddy, escaped from her back yard and was picked up by Animal Control. "They found that he is more than 49 percent pit bull."

Because of the breed ban, Talbot was forced to find a foster home for Buddy in Englewood and has paid more than $1,000 in fines.

"I'm on a monthly payment plan for that," said Talbot. "But if I hadn't claimed him, he would have been put down."

In 2006, Aurora started enforcing a prohibition on the breed after a series of vicious attacks.

"People are safer," said City Councilwoman Molly Markert, an original proponent of the ban, who said dangerous dog ordinances don't go far enough. "You have to have a bite in order to have a vicious dog, and I don't want to wait for accidents and tragedies to happen. I want to protect people up front."

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But Nancy Tranzow, who represents the rescue group ColoRADogs, said breed-specific laws are based on myths and media hype, not facts.

"The idea that they bite and hold and don't let go is ludicrous," said Tranzow. "Their bite is no different. There is no scientific data that tells us that pit bulls are more dangerous than any other breed."

She points to several national groups that opposed bans, including the American Veterinary Medical Associations, which states "controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous."

Tranzow said the real problem is not the breed, but irresponsible owners.

"It has a lot more to do with social disapproval and the idea that a certain group of people own these dogs, and so by banning them, it's actually a way to show social disapproval," said Tranzow.

Markert doesn't deny that social disapproval plays a role.

"Oh, you bet if I could, I would ban the owners, too," said Markert. "By banning the dogs, we lose the violent behavior that comes with the owners."

Markert said, for her, the bottom line is that breed bans make people feel safer.

"It's not about a fact, it's about a feeling," said Markert.

For restricted breed owners like Sharee Talbot, though, the feeling isn't safety -- it's discrimination.

"Innocent lives are being lost. These dogs are losing their lives," said Talbot.

There are eight cities in Colorado with Pit Bull bans.

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