The University of Denver has announced that they have completed research on the economic impact of Denver’s “pit bull” ban. The work — a collaboration that includes departments focused on law, public policy, animal studies, social work, economics, and business — found that enforcement of the ban has cost taxpayers over $100,000,000 over the last 30 years, but has not resulted in a measurable impact on public safety.
The research also determined that enforcement is unequal and predominantly race-based. And it results in Denver being a “bad neighbor.” In other words, say the authors, “it adds pressure to the state’s sheltering system” because surrounding communities and rescue groups have to take on the burden for Denver’s regressive and selfish policies in order to save the lives of these dogs.
Earlier this year, the City Council passed a bill that would have “phase[d] in legal pit bull ownership through a breed-specific license program” and would have allowed them to be adopted from local “shelters.” The bill, however, was vetoed by the Mayor. Now voters will have a chance to undo the Mayor’s action and make it law anyway. Measure 2J, which is before the voters in the November election, would allow the registration and adoption system.
If passed, it would not be a full repeal of breed discriminatory legislation, as other cities have done recently — including Prairie Village, KS, Sioux City, IA, Kennewick, WA, South Point, OH, Cudahy, WI, Kansas City, KS, Liberty, MO, Eureka, MO, Gardendale, AL, Rocky River, OH, Garfield Heights, OH, Lakewood, OH, Castle Rock, CO, Eudora, KS, Anamosa, IA, Yakima, WA, and Marceline City, MO — but it would be a step in that direction.
The University of Denver analysis adds to a growing body of academic and scientific literature across the globe that has called for the repeal of such discriminatory laws, finding that they lack scientific basis. One study, for example, found that 50% of dogs labeled as pit bulls lacked DNA signatures of breeds commonly classified as pit bulls. Another found that dogs targeted for breed discriminatory laws are not more likely to bite, do not bite harder, and such bans do not result in fewer dog bites or bite-related hospitalization rates.
Moreover, while “public safety” is the excuse, the real motivation appears to have less to do with dogs and more to do with people: “proxies by which uneasy majorities can register their suspicions about the race, class and ethnicity of the people who own those dogs.”
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