Lawsuits Swirl Over Denver's Ban on Pit Bulls

In the latest lawsuit to grow out of Denver, Colorado’s 15-year-old ban on pit bulls in that city, the city of Denver is suing the state to overturn a law that forbade individual municipalities from banning specific breeds of dog.

After a number of attacks involving pit bulls, including one that killed a child, Denver banned pit bulls in 1989. That ban was overturned by the state legislature in April. The legislature passed a bill designed to overturn Colorado’s so-called “first bite free” rule under which an owner with a dangerous dog could not be prosecuted until after a provable first offense had already been committed by the dog. That bill was amended to include language that made it illegal for Colorado municipalities to ban specific breeds of dogs.

The city of Denver filed a lawsuit in May arguing that the law violated a home rule amendment to the Colorado state constitution which gives municipalities a wide degree of freedom from interference by the state legislature.

And that’s not the only lawsuit going. In March the American Canine Foundation filed a lawsuit against Denver claiming that the city violated the constitutional rights of two pit bull owners who had to leave the city in order to keep their animals. The American Canine Foundation is also threatening to file a lawsuit defending the new state law against breed-specific bans.

Denver has suspended enforcement of the pit bull ban until all of the legal issues are sorted out.


Denver sues state over new dog ban law. April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain News, May 14, 2004.

State Dumps Ban on Pit Bulls; Denver Scrambles in Wake of New Law. Peggy Love, Rocky Mountain News, April 22, 2004.

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