Do Broncos Fans Know Denver Bans Dogs Based on Their Looks?

The City of Denver has something to be very proud about: The Broncos, the best team in the AFC this football season, is challenging the North Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Denver also has something to be very ashamed about: The city enforces one of the strictest dog breed bans in the country.

If you don’t have a dog – particularly a pit bull or one that looks like a pit bull – you might not be aware that Denver enforces breed-specific legislation (BSL).

These laws single out dogs based solely on their looks – not on their temperament or any other reasonable factors, or on how they are treated by their owners. For this reason, BSL is considered racism for dogs (i.e., “breedism”).

BSL unfairly punishes well-behaved dogs and responsible dog owners by blaming the entire breed rather than the individual deed. It is opposed by virtually every major animal welfare organization.

Yet in the City and County of Denver, no one can own, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor or sell a “pit bull” – an umbrella term that includes American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and dogs that look like these breeds.

Imagine an animal control officer coming to your door and taking your beloved dog away – and euthanizing him – only because your pet is a certain breed or happens to look like that breed. This isn’t the stuff of nightmares but the worst-case scenario for Denver pit bull owners who can’t move away or find new homes for their dogs in breed-friendlier locations. Thousands of Denver dogs have been seized and killed since BSL was enacted in 1989.

Not only is BSL unfair, but it has not increased public safety anywhere it’s been enacted.

“If the goal is dog–bite prevention, then dogs should be treated as individuals under effective dangerous dog laws and not as part of a breed painted with certain traits that may not be applicable to each dog,” said Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). “By doing so, owners of well–trained, gentle dogs are not punished by a breed ban, while dangerous dogs of all breeds are regulated and may have their day in court to be proven dangerous.”

Denver has “perhaps the most tortured history with BSL,” according to the ALDF. “Denver passed BSL in 1989, but the Colorado State Legislature outlawed BSL in 2004. Denver later reinstated BSL after the city challenged the state’s BSL prohibition, and a judge ruled that Denver’s BSL could be allowed to stand as a home rule exception.”

The ban was enacted after 3-year-old Fernando Salazar wandered into his neighbor’s yard and was fatally attacked by an unspayed pit bull that was chained to a carport, according to the Denver Post. Three years earlier, another of the owner’s dogs had bitten an 8-year-old boy.

“Breed bans usually come on the heels of a fatal dog attack, a knee-jerk reaction by city and county officials that might pacify a community for a while, but doesn’t do a thing to keep communities safer,” notes the Best Friends Animal Society. “It’s much easier to institute breed bans than to look at what caused those attacks.”

Instead of BSL, Best Friends and other animal welfare organizations support breed-neutral ordinances that address what they regard as the true cause of dangerous dog problems: irresponsible owners.

Because of its proven ineffectiveness, BSL has been banned statewide in Colorado as well as California, Illinois, New York, Texas and several other states. Last year, cities in Louisiana, Michigan and Rhode Island ended their pit bull bans.

Why not Denver?

“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,” wrote Brent Toellner, co-founder of the Kansas City Pet Project, after voters in Aurora, another Colorado city that enforces BSL, decided to keep its ban in 2014.

I hate to admit it, but I used to be “breedist,” believing all the negative hype. If I saw someone walking a pit bull, I’d cross the street to avoid the “dangerous dog.” Like Toellner said, it wasn’t until I actually met and interacted with a pit bull that my preconceived notions vanished. Since then, I’ve been the proud mom of four different “bully breed” dogs. And I’m not a gangbanger or dog fighter, according to the popular stereotypes of pit bull owners, but a college-educated professional.

Here’s hoping Denver residents have similar experiences, although they’ll have to leave town to have them. If you live in Denver and oppose the breed ban, please let your city officials know — and in the next election, vote against those who support BSL.

In the meantime, on Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll be boycotting the game and watching “Puppy Bowl” instead. Among the players being provided by animal rescues are a few pit bull puppies – but none from Denver, sadly.

Photo credit: Lexus2D


Richard A
Richard A2 years ago

Feelgood laws are seldom good, well thought out, or effective.
These bred-specific laws are examples of just that.

Emily H.
Emily H2 years ago

Remember that part of this has to do with Denver elitist beliefs. They made a pitbull law, the state said that such laws should be done away with, Denver challenged that and got a 'home rule' modification and put their law back in place, in spades. They WILL not be changing it, because they're too proud to give up their 'home rule'. It's a matter of elitist pride now over facts or even justice.

BJ J2 years ago

This needs to stop. In most cases, it's the owner's fault any dog is nasty.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore3 years ago

"Breed specific legislation" should renamed exactly what it is: BULLSHIT LEGISLATION!

Ivana D.
Ivana D3 years ago

Hopefully they'll stop discrimination of breeds all over the world soon

Ivana D.
Ivana D3 years ago


angel l.
Angela L3 years ago

What's the difference to the segregation in the early 50's? Humans have brain problems, not the animals!!!! These stupid people should learn to open their eyes and expand their cultural studies, social studies and more.....

Lori E.
Lori E3 years ago

This has been ongoing for years in Denver. Very upsetting.

Ivana D.
Ivana D3 years ago