These are bad times if you are a pit bull, or own one, in Denver.
Scared by the damage that pit bulls can inflict when they attack, the City Council of Aurora approved a ban of new pit bulls within the city limits. Owners of existing pit bulls can keep their pet if the meet new rules, including a special, breed-specific licensing fee of $200, carrying $100,000 of liability insurance, be at least 21 years of age, and post warning signs in the front of their property.
With the exception of the breed-specific licensing fee, none of these requirements are outrageous. They are simply the minimum requirements of being a responsible dog owner–of any breed.
However, the ban is the result of not only urban myths about the breed, but, most importantly, bad owners.
So are pit bulls the product of the breed or bad owners? And who is responsible for the damages they cause–the dog or the owner?
First, let’s deal with the public’s fear of the breed. As many are aware, this muscular breed looks like this:
Quite menancing looking, huh?
But, if we’re going to condemn the big, muscular, adult version of the breed universally, then we also have to condemn these guys as equally bad:
Not ready to do that? Unfortunately, one of the consequences of Aurora’s ban is that pit bulls of all ages are being sent to the pound.
Even more unfortunate is that this breed has been the victim of poor owners and, in most cases that come into our office, completely irresponsible owners. It seems common sense that dog owners should keep their animals closed in their property, should carry sufficient insurance to pay for damages caused by their animal, and–if there are signs of prior aggressive behavior–place warning signs outside their property.
Yet, I can’t tell you how many times we have received telephone calls from the parents of small children who have been mauled by pit bulls owned by irresponsible owners who (1) let their animal wander the neighborhood unsupervised, (2) do not carry ANY insurance at all, and (3) do not take any extra steps to safeguard others after their animal had shown prior aggression.
Dog bites obviously aren’t limited to pit bulls. We’ve received a greater number of calls from dog bites from smaller dogs (chihuahuas, poodles, etc.) than pit bulls. The difference, though, is that the pit bull owners have been irresponsible almost to a man while the other dog owners possess insurance and supervised their dogs.
This is not an indictment of pit bull owners in total. Just a certain group of owners. The public should hold these owners to a higher standard of responsibility than they hold themselves. The public should also take a little time to find out about these often misunderstood animals.
But they should cut the animals some slack for the shortcomings of their owners.