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Pit Bull Service Dog Rules OK in Denver/Aurora, Lawsuits Dismissed

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger has ruled that Aurora and Denver have done enough to allow Pit Bulls as service dogs. Late last month she threw out lawsuits by the Animal Law Center against the two Colorado cities regarding their Pit Bull bans--specifically, when Pit Bulls are used as service dogs.

Denver and Aurora originally had banned Pit Bulls--even as service dog-- but altered their rules after a 2011 federal ruling.

Both cities now allow Pit Bulls as service animals, but Denver officers are essentially told to look the other way when they encounter them in that capacity.

Aurora requires owners of Pit Bulls to follow more restrictions than service dogs of other breeds. The restrictions are meant to protect others from the animals, city officials contend.

Both cities otherwise ban the breed.

Two lawsuits were filed by the Animal Law Center alleging that the cities didn't follow federal law in regard to service dogs. AttorneyJay Swearingen, who represented the plaintiffs — two war veterans and a visiting dog-show judge — said he plans to appeal Judge Krieger’s decision. The lawsuits were combined into one, reports the Denver Post.

Denver City Attorney Doug Friednash said, in a written statement, that the city is pleased about the court dismissal of the case.

"We believe the court correctly determined that none of the plaintiffs were harmed by Denver's ordinance or animal control policies," he said. "Denver has and will continue to respect the rights of individuals with service animals."

Aurora City Attorney Charlie Richardson said the ruling was a fair one considering the changes the city made after the 2011 ruling by the federal government that updated regulations to the Americans with Disabilities Act and clarifying the definition of a service animal.

War veterans Allen Grider and Glenn Belcher, and Valerie Piltz, the dog judge, sued the city several years ago “It's the fact that their dog is treated differently ... than if it were a golden retriever," Swearingen said. "They run into more issues than the average person with a non-Pit-Bull service dog."

Aurora impounded Grider's Pit Bull-mix in 2009 for more than a week. Grider, who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, says he then had to keep his dog at a friend's house outside the city for several months.

Belcher, a Persian Gulf War vet, said he suffers from depression, anxiety and other physical disabilities and needed his dog.

Piltz was visiting the Denver area to judge in the United Kennel Club Dog Show. She was able to secure a temporary permit to have her two pit bull service dogs in Aurora, where the competition took place, but not from Denver, where she was staying with her sister, the Denver Post reports.

"The judge made a ruling on the law," he said. "Naturally, we respect the judge's ruling, but we disagree with it."

In a discussion of the Denver ban, Assistant City Attorney Kory Nelson recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that:

“Since 1989, when that city instituted a pit bull ban, ‘we haven’t had one serious pit bull attack,’ said Kory Nelson, a Denver assistant city attorney. His city’s assertion that ‘pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds of dog’ has withstood legal challenges, he said.

‘We were able to prove there’s a difference between pit bulls and other breeds of dogs that make pit bulls more dangerous,' he said."

Sources:Denver Post


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