Tuesday, voters in Aurora, Colorado will have the opportunity to repeal the city's 9-year-old breed ban.
The city has discussed the potential repeal multiple times since the law's inception and finally decided to take the repeal idea to the voters. I personally think it's an uphill battle to win a repeal via a public vote, generally because if a ban is in place, most of the residents have had very little personal interaction with the banned breeds and thus, are more apt to have to rely on the media coverage as the basis for their opinions. To this point, the area media has not been terribly accurate in their reporting.
So with that, here are seven facts that voters in Aurora need to know prior to heading to the polls.
1. All national organizations with expertise in dog behavior support repealing breed bans.
Every. Single. One. These organizations of professionals are basing their reputations on their opposition to breed-specific laws. And these organizations are very diverse, and include the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Animal Control Association (NACA), American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the American Bar Association all agree that laws targeting breeds are ineffective and should be replaced with laws targeting aggressive dogs based on their behavior, not their breed.
2. The 9-year-old breed ban has NOT been effective at improving public safety.
In fact, the number of bites in Aurora has actually increased by 77 percent since the law was put into effect and the law seemed to reverse what was a trend of decreasing dog bites, and bites immediately began trending upward after the law passed. In fact, the four highest years in total dog bites occurred AFTER the law was enacted to supposedly improve public safety. Here are the raw numbers from 2003-2013:
Year -- Total Bites / Bites by targeted breeds / Bites by other breeds
2003 -- 213 / 28 / 185
2004 -- 211 / 33 / 178
2005 -- 137 / 27 / 110
Ordinance Passed October 24, 2005
2006 -- 137 / 8 / 129
2007 -- 172 / 15 / 157
2008 -- 224 / 8 / 216
2009 -- 229 / 9 / 220
2010 -- 194 / 6 / 188
2011 -- 252 / 9 / 243
2012 -- 241 / 6 / 235
2013 -- 243 / 10 / 233
It's also worth noting that the breed ban was set at addressing only about 15 percent of the dog bites in Aurora -- and never even attempted to address 85 percent of the cases.
#3) In spite of the total bite data being easily available via Freedom of Information Act, not one single media outlet in the Denver/Aurora area has decided to publish it.
#4) What the ordinance has done is lead to the mass slaughter of more than 1,100 dogs that look like pit bulls -- at taxpayer expense.
According to a memo produced by Aurora Animal Care PR Specialist Cheryl Conway, dated January 27th, 636 pit bulls were killed in 2006 -- the first year after the ban was passed. 173 were killed in 2007 and roughly 100 every year since then.
The ordinance has led to the direct killing of more than 1,000 family pets since it was enacted. An article from the Aurora Sentinel put the death tally at 1,158 nearly a year ago. While the rest of the nation is working hard to save healthy, treatable dogs, the city of Aurora is using taxpayer money to round them up and kill them.
#5) Aurora City Council members that support the law have acknowledged that the law isn't about improved public safety and is not rooted in factual information.
Last week, Aurora City Council Woman Molly Markert told ABC 7 in Denver:
"Oh, you bet if I could, I would ban the owners too. By banning the dogs, we lose the violent behavior that comes with the owners." She then went on to say that breed bans make people feel safer. "It's not about a fact, it's about a feeling."
In saying this, she acknowledges that she is racist, or at the very least classist, vs the stereotypes of people she THINKS own pit bulls. Never mind that pit bulls are among the most popular breeds of dogs in the country, and owned by people of all races, income levels, and professions including lawyers, academics, and young professionals.
Markert's reactions should be extremely frightening to anyone who believes in fact-based decision-making and policies not designed to target people by perceived race or class.
#6) The expense of managing the ordinance has been substantial, including substantial legal fees that are being paid with taxpayer funds.
An email from Assistant City Attorney Julie Heckman from February 2014 notes that the city has suffered many legal challenges, to which they have suffered substantial losses.
In the ADA case, Grider, Belcher and Piltz vs the City of Denver & Aurora, the city of Aurora endured more than $130,000 in legal fees associated with defending the law (in a case which they eventually lost).
They also have been challenged in their breed identification of more than 100 dogs -- and ended up being wrong on the the breed ID in 77 percent of the cases. Again, all at taxpayer expense.
#7) City officials have already acknowledged that the original breed ban was a failure.
The original law banned 10 different breeds of dogs back in 2006. However, in April 2011, the council voted to remove 7 breeds from the banned breeds list due to their struggles in enforcing the law.
The law is a failure. It's failed in public safety. It's cost innocent pets their lives. It's cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the council members who support the law acknowledge it's not rooted in fact, and only makes people feel better. And the law has no professional support.
Voters in Aurora, I urge you to vote to repeal the city's breed ban on Tuesday. The rest of the nation is watching.