Pit bull law called into question

6:50 PM, Feb 25, 2011   |    comments
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Denver resident Amee Blauwkamp almost lost her dog Mufasa after he ran away and turned up at the Denver Animal Shelter.

"At the time that we had picked him up, they said he was a pit bull," Blauwkamp said.

It took an expensive appeal, complete with evaluations from the American and United Kennel Clubs to determine that Mufasa was actually a boxer, not a pit bull.

Blauwkamp's attorney Jennifer Edwards, with the Animal Law Center, said that raises questions about how accurately the shelter can identify dogs picked up on the streets.

"I think it poses a danger for people who have dogs that look like one or more of the restricted breeds," Edwards said.

She also worries there might be dogs other than pit bulls awaiting euthanasia at the shelter.

"I know that there are dogs on "death row" that are not pit bulls. I have seen them with my own eyes," she said.

But Denver Municipal Animal Shelter director Doug Kelley said the methods his employees use to identify dogs are thorough and complete.

"It's really based on the physical traits," Kelley said. "Looking at the set of the jaw, the set of the chest, and how the feet are ... and the coat and the ears and the tails."

Kelley said if it appears the dog is more than 50 percent pit bull, it is illegal to own.

"I really feel that the process is a good process," Kelley said. "It's actually been taken to court before and found to be an accurate process."

But Blauwkamp said 50 percent seems like an arbitrary number.

"There is a lot more than color and the size of the head to determine what a breed is," Blauwkamp said.

She said she worries that others might lose their best friend to the law and never be able to get them back.

The Denver pit bull ban has been in place since 1989. Anybody whose animal is brought into the shelter is entitled to an appeal, where they can provide evidence to prove the breed of their dog.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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