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City data show pit bulls have accounted for nearly a quarter of reported dog bites this year

The data show the dog breed accounts for more reported bites this year than any other breed, but it doesn't account for the popularity of the dog.

DENVER — In the first full year after Denver voters removed the city's ban on pit bulls, the breed accounted for one in every six dog bites reported to Denver Animal Protection, data from the city showed.

In 2021, 116 people reported a pit bull bite, compared to 65 in 2020 and 38 in 2019. 

So far in 2022, 95 people have reported pit bull bites, representing nearly a quarter of the 424 total bites reported.

The data include three pit bull breeds: American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier — as well as bites reported by unknown types of pit bull. 

Vicky Mora said a pit bull attacked her earlier this month at the 7-Eleven store near Pecos Street and 47th Avenue. 

"It was horrendous," she said. "The dog grabbed me from my arm, dragged me and I had to fight him off." 

Mora said doctors had to give her 10 stitches and prescribed a regimen of four rabies shots after the encounter. She said the dog bit both of her arms and both legs. 

"I had to fight him off," she said. "It was either him or me, and it wasn't going to be me that day." 

She said the owner of the dog left without checking to see if she was OK. She blames him — not the dog — for the attack.

"Dog breeds do not tell you whether a dog is going to be aggressive. It all comes down to responsible ownership," said Shira Hereld, who advocated for Denver to repeal its pit bull ban in 2020.

The mayor vetoed the ban repeal, but voters rebuked him and allowed pit bulls in the city so long as their owners properly licensed them. 

Hereld said the data from the city's Animal Protection division don't tell the whole story because it doesn't account for the popularity of the dog.

A city spokesperson said most bites come from un-permitted pit bulls and dogs that have not had a breed evaluation. 

"Victims report the breed as 'pit bull,' which is often not accurate," said spokesperson Tammy Vigil. "We regularly have people bring their dog in to get a breed evaluation and learn their dog is not a pit bull."

Since 2018, Animal Protection reports 348 bites by pit bulls — about 12.5% of the total number of bites reported. Labrador retrievers accounted for 259 bites, and there were 244 bites by German shepherds, the data show. Unknown dogs accounted for 208 bites.

"The statistics about breed are not going to tell you whether a dog is safe, a good dog to have around you, a good dog to have around your family," Hereld said.

"What is useful is learning about your dog, learning about other people's dogs and trying to be a responsible owner," Hereld said.

The city asks pit bull owners to contact Denver Animal Protection to set up a breed-restricted assessment. The process takes about 45 minutes.

If animal protection officers identify the dog as a restricted breed, the owner must get a permit. The assessment costs $25 and the permit is an additional $30.

Owners must renew their permits every year for three years. If there are no violations involving their dogs during that timeframe, owners may request to be removed from the breed-restricted requirements.

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