If City Council agrees, voters will decide whether to legalize pit bulls in Denver

The question would appear on November’s ballot.

Zelle the pit bull is set to be transferred out of the Denver Animal Shelter, Jan. 17, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Zelle the pit bull is set to be transferred out of the Denver Animal Shelter, Jan. 17, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Voters are getting closer to deciding whether to allow pit bulls to live legally in Denver. On Tuesday, a City Council committee forwarded a measure to the full council, which would ultimately decide whether to put the question on November’s ballot.

Other ways to reverse the long-held ban have failed. Five months ago, Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed a reversal of the ban pushed by city council member Chris Herndon. Herndon unsuccessfully tried to overturn the mayor’s veto.

The ballot measure would require a breed-specific permit for pit bulls. Owners would need to provide the name of the dog and where it lives, an emergency contact, a description of the dog, an annual fee for the permit and proof of vaccination. Only two pit bulls would be allowed per home.

If the dog doesn’t record any violations for 36 consecutive months, it would be allowed to register with the city like any other dog.

Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore’s district includes Montbello, a neighborhood with some of the highest number of calls to Denver Animal Protection over suspected pit bulls. Several neighborhood residents spoke out against Herndon’s bill when it came before the council in February, citing safety. Gilmore said she’d support the ballot measure if residents of Montbello agreed with it. Herndon says he’s heard from residents about their concerns and said he hopes the city can continue paying for programs encouraging responsible pet ownership.

Six people spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, most of whom supported the bill. Shira Hereld, co-founder of Replace Denver BSL, which advocated for the ban’s repeal, called Herndon’s bill a modest proposal serving as “an intelligent, science-based and safe compromise.” She said breed-specific bans are ineffective.

If the ballot measure passes, it would go into effect in January.

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