Denver Will Not Overturn Pit Bull Ban After All

Denver will remain a pit bull-free city after its city council failed to override the mayor’s veto of legislation that would have ended a 30-year ban on the dog breed.

The council on Monday was unable to muster nine votes needed to overturn Mayor Michael Hancock’s Feb. 14 veto of a bill that would have allowed pit bulls to be licensed as pets for the first time since they were outlawed following a pair of vicious 1989 attacks. Council members passed legislation lifting the ban in a 7-4 vote on Feb. 10.

“I just kept thinking that if this were to become law in our city, and harm comes to someone as a result, then we would have done a disservice to the people of Denver,” Hancock said in explaining his veto.

Council member Chris Herndon, who proposed overturning the ban, expressed disappointment at the mayor’s position. 

“Not once did the third floor come to me and say, ‘Let’s have a conversation,’” Herndon told The Denver Post of the mayor’s office.

Herndon argued in favor of lifting the ban by citing experts and other cities that repealed their breed-specific restrictions. He argued that a special license for pit bulls would be a compromise, placing heightened rules on those wanting to own the breed.

The mayor, however, feared pit bull breeds would not be properly licensed, since less than 20% of Denver pets are.

“The reality is that irresponsible pet owners continue to be a problem, and it is the irresponsible owners and their dogs I must consider in evaluating the overall impact of this ordinance,” Hancock said.

The city and county of Denver banned pit bulls in 1989 after two separate dog attacks that killed a 3-year-old boy and mauled a minister.

Herndon said he plans to push for the issue to be placed on the November 2020 ballot so voters can decide.

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