August Chairman's Report
Last month the American Kennel Club along with Karen R. Breslin of the Progressive Law Center, LLC of Lakewood, Colorado and the Washington D.C. office of Kaye Scholer LLP filed a brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit asking to reverse a lower court’s decision and grant former Denver resident Sonya Dias, and others, a hearing on the unconstitutionality of Denver’s so-called “pit bull” ban.
The ordinance, originally enacted in 1989, in part states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise, control over, maintain, harbor, transport, or sell within the city any pit bull…” it further states, “a ‘pit bull’ is …”defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one (1) or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards…” Those found in violation of the ordinance are subject to arrest and seizure and euthanasia of their pets.
When did breed standards become the benchmark for law enforcement pertaining to a criminal act? This is what has happened in Denver and why we have joined in this legal action. There have been several legal challenges to this ordinance on different grounds in the past, but since 2005, when the city re-instituted enforcement of the ordinance, several hundred dogs within the city limits have been euthanized simply because of their phenotypic characteristics based on certain breed standards.
In this latest round of legal challenges Dias, et al, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in April 2007, challenging the constitutionality of the breed ban. Dias and the other owners were forced to move out of Denver with their dogs because of the ban which they asserted was a violation of, among other things, their constitutional rights as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment. The city sought dismissal of this case and the court granted it in March 2008. The AKC believes the lower court’s decision should be reversed to give the much maligned and misunderstood breeds - identified under the generic term of ‘pit bull’ - and their loving owners their day in court.
The AKC takes any threat to responsible dog ownership seriously. We believe there are ways to have reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern dog ownership. Lawmakers must establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as "dangerous" based on stated, measurable actions rather than on their look, or some vague characteristics left open to interpretation by anybody asked to enforce it whether a breed expert or not. Targeting a breed - or a dog that has “the majority of physical traits” of a certain breed is akin to stereotyping, which we all know is false. Dangerous dogs must be judged on their deed not their breed.
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