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Gaston: ‘Bully breeds’ are the ones being bullied by Denver’s breed-specific legislation

The city of Fort Collins is very dog-friendly. Dogs are part of the community, no matter what shape, size or breed. Other cities in Colorado, such as Denver, have breed-specific legislation set in place to prevent “bully breeds” from living in the city at all. 

Many types of dogs fall under the bully breed category and are also impacted by breed-specific legislation. One that comes to mind for most is the pit bull. The stereotype of the pit bull is a vicious dog that will attack/bite anyone that comes within range. The big, block head and sharp teeth deter many potential adopters from this breed, causing thousands of pit bulls to be euthanized each year. 


To many dog owners, their dogs are considered family. Families are often influenced by each other and the attitudes around them — breed-specific legislation makes it seem as though the breeds are born vicious. However, training from the owner can be a major influence on the dog’s attitude. Lack of responsibility on the owner’s behalf can translate into the dog’s behavior. The nature versus nurture concept is applicable to these dogs and their owners. If being aggressive is a learned behavior, then it is the owner’s fault.  

The sad commercials of dogs locked in cages that have you diving for the remote to change the channel before you start crying often show breeds like pit bulls. A well-behaved pit bull, or any other banned breed, can, unfortunately, receive the same fate as other members of its breed that are not as mannerly. When they have the correct training and beneficial environment, any type of breed can flourish. Breed-specific legislation does not allow for individual evaluation of the dog. This is one of the legislation’s main weaknesses.

If the dog is not harmful to its community, can it justifiably be banned?

How effective is the legislation? Not very. According to the National Canine Research Council, several studies have concluded that cities that have enacted this legislation still suffer from a high rate of dog bites. On study states that “Denver, Colorado enacted a breed-specific ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continue to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog-bite-related injuries after the ban than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties.”

The way pit bulls are portrayed in the media also does not help their case. Often, they are seen as the aggressive, snarling companion of a gang member and other roles associated with violence. Their role in the media causes the public to heighten their fear of the breed. The way they are portrayed is discriminatory and not reflective of every member of the breed.

The legislation can also be a bit confusing when it comes to vet care. In Denver, non-residents can bring their pit bull to the vet to be treated as long as they adhere to the leash law. However, if a resident of Denver illegally owns a pit bull and brings it in for treatment and animal control is made aware, the dog must be removed.

Enforcement of breed-specific legislation can also be costly. These costs include enforcement, kenneling, vet care, DNA testing, euthanizing and litigation costs. With all of the costs that arise to keep the ban afloat, it can be argued that it costs more than it’s worth. This money could be better allocated toward projects that would benefit the city as a whole.

Supporters of the breed-specific legislation provide the other side to the debate. In a post on, it states that there were 34 deaths attributed to dog attacks. Pit bulls caused 28 of the 34 deaths. There have been reports of dogs under the breed ban posing a threat to other dogs and, in some cases, killing them. Brutal attack stories involving pit bulls and rottweilers influence ides about the breeds and contribute to why some feel that the breed ban is necessary.

The majority involved in the debate over the breed ban agree that it isn’t effective. It’s costly, discriminates against certain breeds and has not helped decrease the amount of dog attacks or bites since it has been enacted in various cities.


The best way to prevent these brutal attacks and irresponsible owners is through education and proper training. There are many rescue sites for pit bulls and other breeds under the ban that have programs to educate potential adopters about how to correctly train the dog they’re welcoming into their home. 

With more education provided to the public about these breeds, cities could see the change the dog-breed ban has not been able to provide. Discrimination against certain types of dogs increases the euthanasia rates nationally.

Responsible dog owners and well-behaved dogs can also be punished for something they have not done. The breed ban causes more issues than it solves when looking at the effects of the legislation. Through education and better care of the dogs that fall under the ban, these problems could be eradicated and more adoptions could take place.

Collegian Columnist Sammy Gaston can be reached at or on Twitter @SammyGaston.

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  • D

    DistrubanceApr 10, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Nice article, but people want Pit Bulls banned because they open their news papers and see children torn up by Pit Bulls time and time again.

    • C

      CassyApr 22, 2016 at 8:12 am

      I disagree to this comment because i have a pitbull at home, and he is the sweetest dog you’ll meet. So you need to check your facts. Its also the owners fault if theyre dog is mean.

  • N

    nonpitbullpetslivesmattertooApr 5, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I used to defend pit bulls by saying it’s “all how you raise ’em”, until I started following dangerous dog attacks. Personally, I have had several close calls with pit bulls while running and walking my rescued dog. I’m surrounded by naïve and irresponsible pit bulls owners.

    Pit bulls have been selectively bred for extreme aggression for hundreds of years for violent blood sports with a deadly bite. They are not safe or appropriate pets and should never be considered as such. Not all pit bulls will maim or kill but predicting which ones will is impossible.

    Pit bull-type dogs make up 6% of the U.S. dog population but are responsible for 95% of the severe attacks on people, pets and livestock every year in the U.S. By taking time to read these tragedies, you’ll discover most of the killing pit bulls came from loving homes. No other dog breeds even come close to the carnage pit bulls cause.

    From 2005-2016, 239 people killed by pit bull type dogs. Go to: DOGSBITE ORG

    459 disfigurements in 2015 by pit bulls.

    Two words to prove pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous, “BREAK STICK’.

    Does this sound like a normal and safe dog breed to have live in our neighborhoods. Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit bull owners to have a “break stick”, a wedge-shaped piece of wood used to pry open a pit bull’s jaw during an attack. “Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution, even if they don’t plan to use it in an illegal context. However, please be discreet. Breaking sticks are not something to brag about and the general public might have the wrong impression if you walk around with a stick in your hand. Breaking sticks are not illegal, but they are considered dog fighting paraphernalia in certain states and/or with certain law enforcement agents.”

    According to Pit Bull Rescue Central, “It is a FACT that our pit bulls, AmStaffs and pit mixes come with a built-in fighting heritage.It doesn’t matter where we get them from, whether it be the pound, a stray we pick up, or a puppy we buy from a breeder. The majority of pit bulls will, at some point in their lives, exhibit some degree of dog-on-dog aggression. Yet, chances are that a “normal” pit bull will not share his affection with other animals.We cannot predict when or where it will happen and we can’t love, train or socialize it out of the dog. Pit bulls may not start fights, but they will finish them.”

    Red Flag: MOST insurance companies have come to the same conclusion and do no cover pit-bulls because they can’t afford the risk. Insurance companies have a calculated actuarial risk of pit bulls of 3,000% compared with other dogs. Pit bulls are seven times more likely to attack their owners. Dog attacks are the third most common claim on homeowner’s insurance. More evidence that people who have pit-bulls and certain other types of breeds are endangering people and other people’s beloved pets in our communities.

    It all starts with the ethical breeder willing to produce a dog with a stable inherited temperament. Domestic animals are selectively bred for certain traits, people are not. It is not possible to discriminate against dog breeds that are purposely bred for certain traits and characteristics. Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics. There are 300+ dog breeds. Pit bull breeders are the only ones who are breeding for aggression, tenacity and power to create the ultimate canine gladiator. The reality is that it is not how you raise them, it is how they are bred. “Love” will not take away a pit bulls inherent drive to kill. They are supplying to dog fighters, drug dealers, gang members, people who want a guard dog or a dog that looks like a protection dog. Aggression is a dominant trait resulting in a 75% chance of inheritance. One needs to actively breed to eliminate it through selective breeding and deliberate attrition, things that back yard breeders never do. Another problem is the rampant inbreeding with pit bull that produces unsafe dog. Pit-bull type dogs are the number one dog surrendered to shelters, a million every year, mostly because of aggression issues. Then many are rehomed by irresponsible pit bull advocates back into our communities. Watch this clip of unethical backyard breeders:

    Most dogs warn you before they attack, growling or barking to tell you how angry they are—”so they don’t have to fight,” ASPCA adviser and animal geneticist Stephen Zawistowski stresses. Not the pit bull, which attacks without warning. Most dogs, too, will bow to signal that they want to frolic. Again, not the pit bull, which may follow an apparently playful bow with a lethal assault.

    BENJAMIN HART, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and animal behaviorist, “It’s quite common for a pit bull to show no signs of aggression. People will call it a nice dog, a sweet dog, even the neighbors – and then all of a sudden something triggers the dog, and it attacks a human in a characteristic way of biting and hanging on until a lot of damage is done. Hart said pit bulls are responsible for about 60 percent of dog attack fatalities each year, which is “way out of proportion” compared with other breeds. Pit bulls make up less than 5 percent of the American dog population. “It’s very poor policy to allow any child around a pit bull, in my mind, let alone climb on a dog.”

    Tia Torres who has a T.V. show on Animal Planet called, “Pit Bulls & Parolees​” wrote this for Rescue Train. “It’s a mistake to think the fighting gene can be easily trained or loved out of a pit-bull.”

    Why she think it’s appropriate to rehome pit bulls after saying that is beyond me. Adopting out predators of other people’s beloved pets compromises public safety. In my opinion is immoral. Pit bulls are zero mistake dogs and people make too many mistakes.

    • D

      DanApr 5, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      Great post, cut and pasted all over the internet, it appears. Any section of the above Googled shows someone wrote this …once. Why bother (or even read) anything I said (you likely didn’t ready it, did you)? Betting you didn’t even read the article. Why bother? Why bother with belief challenges when you have good pseudo-stats on your side? Just get the propaganda out there. Well done. Please (yes, I’m baiting you), cite specific studies for the above. Not website blogs, actual scientific studies. Or perhaps general studies or stands by the ASPCA, AVMA, IAABC, AHS, ATTS, AKC, CDC, etc? Any of those would do as well…no? Not even a single one?Shocked. Waiting for another canned response…

  • D

    DanApr 5, 2016 at 7:35 am is pure junk science–and I use the term “science” here with as liberal a definition as possible. If their point of the spear defense is DogBite, they have no defense. Dogbite is run by a web designer, Coleen Lynn, who was once bitten by a dog and, over time, escalated that incident into a lawsuit (Google: Colleen Lynn lawsuit). They talk of Pit Bull incidents in absolute numbers. Yet there are no absolutes here – not even close. Apart from the non-definition of what a Pit Bull even is, the CDC, the ONLY official harbinger of dog bit statistics, specifically says NOT to use their numbers to identify by breed as the statistics are unreliable. Yes, literally they say NOT to. Yet amazingly, Colleen knows better. Colleen’s numbers are better. Every study that refutes her position (and there are LOTS more than brought up by the article here), no matter who conducts it, is just biased propaganda concocted by dog-lovers. Period. Not a grain of truth. Right…Colleen, why don’t you turn your manic efforts to something constructive, like curing cancer. As a web designer, you’re about equally equipped to do that.