DENVER — It’s been illegal to own a pit bull in Denver since 1989. That could change in 2020.

City Councilman Chris Herndon, a proponent of a full repeal of the breed ban, said he believes he has support from colleagues to phase in legal pit bull ownership through a breed-specific license program.

“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 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.

The plan, which will go unveiled to a City Council committee next week, 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.

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. Herndon said he expected that provision would be used sparingly.

Herndon has represented Northeast Denver on City Council since 2011. He said he was unable to garner support from colleagues in past years for a full repeal of the breed ban.

“My conversations before were about outright repeal,” Herndon said. “You put people in their respective corners.”

“Let’s try to take the emotion out of it and realize that this is a compromise,” Herndon said.

Next has reached out to Mayor Michael Hancock’s office to see if he would sign the ordinance if approved by council.

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