Jared Jacang Maher investigates whether twenty years of
outlawing pit bulls in Denver has made the city safer. Here is a photo tour of the city's "pit bull row," the home of Denver's
confiscated pit bulls (and the place where thousands have been euthanized over
the years). Photos by Anthony Camera. Text by Maher.
In 1989, Denver City Council passed a law banning pit bulls. Any dog suspected
of having a majority mix of the breed is impounded at the municipal animal
shelter at 678 South Jason Street.
Suspected pit bulls are housed in a special section of the shelter known as "pit
Each dog is evaluated by three shelter employees to see if it has the "the
majority of the characteristics" of the three pit bull breeds defined in the
ordinance: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the
American Pit Bull Terrier.
Since 1992, 5,286 pit bulls have been impounded by the city under the
This two-year-old dog, name unknown, has been designated an "illegal pit bull."
Some pit bulls are under "police hold"
while their owners move through the court system in unrelated cases.
Others have been seized from their owners.
Pit bulls can be released if their owners pay impound fees and provide proof
that the dog will be relocated out of city limits, which could give dogs like
one-year-old Diesel a second chance.
The law prevents shelters in Denver from putting pit bulls up for adoption. So
dogs like this one with no identified owner will only be released if staff can
find space in shelters outside the city. But such arrangements are rare.
The majority of the pit bulls impounded by the city are euthanized in the green room displayed below (right hand side).
Under the ban, Denver has put down an estimated 3,497 pit bulls.
From pick up to euthanization, it costs the city roughly $256 per pit
Doug Kelly became director of Denver's animal control in 2000. He can offer no
definitive proof that the pit bull ban works. Still, his agency must enforce
what's written in the ordinance.
For more information, read the Westword feature story on the pit bull ban, view charts and other data
on dog bites in Denver, and check out a sidebar on how the City of Boulder is dealing with aggressive dogs without
banning pit bulls.
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