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Bill to allow pit bulls in Denver officially introduced in city council

The proposal would phase in legal pit bull ownership through a breed-specific license program.

DENVER — Denver City Council on Monday night voted to officially introduce a bill that would allow people to own pit bulls in the city for the first time in three decades.

Two council members voted against allowing the proposal to move forward: Debbie Ortega and Stacie Gilmore.

City Councilman Chris Herndon is proposing a licensing system that would allow people to own pit bulls within city and county limits so long as they acquire a special license.

RELATED: Proposal to allow pit bulls in Denver moves forward

“This bill will actually make us safer,” Herndon said. “We can pretend that there aren’t pits in the city of Denver. I think that would be a very naïve approach. We know that they are there.” 

A draft of Herndon’s proposal reviewed by Next with Kyle Clark a few weeks ago calls for a program to allow pit bull owners to come out of the shadows and eventually register their dog like any non-restricted breed after 36 months in the program. An amendment that requires owners prove the animal has been spayed or neutered was added Monday night.

The plan would also allow Denver Animal Protection and humane societies in the city to adopt out pit bulls, which is currently prohibited. Adoptive owners would be automatically enrolled in the breed-restricted license program.

RELATED: Denver to consider legalizing pit bulls

RELATED: Pit bull advocates push cities to repeal bans on breed

Denver banned three breeds under the umbrella term “pit bulls” in 1989 amid concerns that the dogs were disproportionally aggressive and violent.

Herndon said research in the decades since has challenged the idea that pit bulls are more prone to attack people and other dogs.

“There’s no such thing as a bad breed,” Herndon said. “So for people to see more pit bulls throughout the city and not have that fear, I certainly believe that would be a good thing.”

Herndon is proposing that pit bull owners be allowed to register their dogs with specific identifying information about the dog, its home address and owners. Owners would be required to notify Denver Animal Protection within eight hours if a pit bull escapes or is involved in a biting incident. Owners would also have to tell the city if they move or the dog dies.

A maximum of two pit bulls per household would be allowed. The program would permit animal control workers to inspect a pit bull owner’s home for safety. 

After five years, Denver Animal Protection would review the data and report its findings to City Council. The original bill said this review would happen in 5 years but the timeframe was amended during Monday's meeting.

RELATED: Pit bulls could soon be allowed in Aurora

RELATED: Castle Rock ends 25-year pit bull ban

There's a public hearing on the bill scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10.

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