Colorado Pitbull Goes Free After Dog Bite to Doxie   Note: One of our attorney contributors worked on the Aurora case in 2008, and Federal Judge decided that ANY rationale could be used to keep the breed ban, despite evidence showing that banned breeds did not contribute to some of the worst bites or injury. So evidence alone does not carry the case necessarily.


“I’m thinking that now is probably the time to bring it back,” Councilwoman Renie Peterson said. “It’s all about how you treat an animal, it’s not the breed of animal, it’s the owner.”

BY BRANDON JOHANSSON, STAFF WRITER 11/14/13 6:51 am :: Last updated: 11/14/13 6:54 am

His battered face smiling at the attention, a badly abused pit bull walked free last week from the city’s animal shelter, destined for a new life in New Jersey.

The case of the dog named Stallone marked one of the few times in recent years that the city’s oft-criticized ban on pit bulls stepped to the forefront of local municipal mumblings — a far cry from the days when the city instituted the ban in 2006 over the howls of pit bull advocates.

Kelly Anderson and her son (left) get some puppy love along with Frederick John Katz III who recently adopted Stallone and Stallone's lawyer Juliet Piccone, Nov. 8 at the Aurora Animal Shelter. Stallone was being transported from Arizona to New Jersey for adoption when he was taken by animal control officers after attacking a dachshund at an Aurora dog park. (Nathan Leach-Proffer/For the Aurora Sentinel)

But that quiet is likely to go away as opponents of the ban renew their calls for change, and at least one city council member floats a full repeal of the ban.

“I’m planning to bring it back this spring,” said Councilwoman Renie Peterson.

Peterson has been a critic of the city’s ban for years. In 2011 she pushed a repeal, but the measure didn’t get enough votes to pass council.

Still, that last effort saw the city amend the ban so it includes only three breeds — American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terrier. Those are the breeds most commonly referred to as pit bulls.

Peterson said that with council warming to idea of backyard chickens in recent months, she’s hopeful they’ll also be willing to scrap the city’s ban on pit bulls.

“I’m thinking that now is probably the time to bring it back,” she said. “It’s all about how you treat an animal, it’s not the breed of animal, it’s the owner.”

Since the ban took effect in early 2006, 1,158 dogs from the restricted breeds have been destroyed in Aurora. The ban allowed for dogs already living in Aurora when the ban took effect to be “grandfathered” in if the owners met a handful of requirements.

Those requirements included paying a registration fee — which was $200 per year when the ban started, but has since been dropped to $125 per year.

In that first year, there were about 500 pit bulls registered with the city, but the number has steadily dropped since.

The ordinance requires the city to track data regarding the ban, including the number of pit bulls killed and the number impounded.

Since the measure took effect, the number of dogs destroyed because of the ban has dropped steadily.

In the first year of the ban, the city killed 636 pit bulls, but the number dropped to 173 the next year. So far this year, 43 dogs have been killed. In all, the city has destroyed 1,158 dogs as a result of the ban, and animal control officials say the majority of those are dogs that were stray, unclaimed injured or ill animals.

When the ban became law, there were about 500 registered pit bulls in the city, but the number dropped to just 90 last year.

The number of restricted breed citations has also dropped, from 222 in 2006 to just 34 so far this year.

City records show that the number of reported dog bites in Aurora has remained the same for about 10 years, about 200 per year, but the number of bites from restricted breeds has gone from about 30 a year to less than 10.

A 2010 study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora reported that mixed breeds and Labrador retrievers are the cause of most human bites, which correlate to their popularity among dog owners. Proponents of restricted breed bans point to national studies showing pit bulls account for a large proportion of dog-bite fatalities.

While the ban has always had some very vocal critics — council meetings where the ban is discussed are often some of the best attended — the issue has hardly been a hot one politically.

During the recent city council election, the ban on pit bulls barely came up.

“In the whole campaign for my re-election, I don’t recall it coming up at all,” said city Councilman Brad Pierce, who was re-elected to an at-large seat on council.

Pierce backed the ban when it was passed in 2006 and said he still supports it. Certain breeds should be restricted because they are simply more dangerous than others, Pierce said.

“There just seemed like a lot of instances where particular breeds of dogs were either biting people or other dogs. I thought at the time and think now that its a good ordinance to have,” he said.

And, Pierce said, if dog owners pay the registration fee and take the necessary precautions, they are welcome to keep their dog.

“It’s not like we are making people get rid of their dogs, they can keep them,” he said.

But the ban still has its opponents, something evidenced by a small crowd that rallied before Stallone’s court hearing at Aurora Municipal Court last week.

Juliet Piccone, the lawyer who represented Thomas Beard, the man who was transporting Stallone from Arizona to New Jersey when the dog attacked, said bans like Aurora’s are bad policy.

“Breed bans don’t solve the problem that they are trying to address, which is irresponsible owners or dog bites or dog attacks,” she said.

What cities need instead are laws that address all breeds and call for responsible dog owners, she said.

“They all have to play by the same rules, and they all have to be accountable,” she said.

Piccone said that wasn’t the case with Stallone. While the dog attacked a much smaller dachshund Oct. 26, pinning the little pooch named Misty to the ground and horrifying its owners, that wasn’t the crime Stallone’s caretaker was charged with.

Instead, when animal control officers arrived at the dog park, they charged Beard with a single count of violating the city’s breed ban. He wasn’t charged with having a vicious dog or even violating the city’s leash law.

“I am 95 percent sure that a golden retriever with the same sweet demeanor as Stallone would have gone home on a home quarantine and would not have been impounded,” she said.

In Stallone’s case, the pooch stayed locked up in the city’s impound for almost two weeks.

Piccone has stressed that she isn’t defending what Stallone did, and has admitted that her client made a boneheaded move when he brought a dog as badly abused as Stallone to the dog park. But, she said, the breed ban meant that Stallone found himself in far deeper trouble than a different breed would have.

Peterson said she expects council meetings to take on the raucous atmosphere that dominated previous pit bull debates when she proposes repeal next year.

“I think when I bring it back up we are going to have the same kind of thing,: she said. “And council is going to think I’m a headache.”

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A badly abused pit bull that bit another dog in an Aurora dog park will go free after a judge ruled that it could go live with its new owner in New Jersey

BY BRANDON JOHANSSON, STAFF WRITER 11/08/13 4:32 pm :: Last updated: 11/12/13 2:04 pm

AURORA | After a few weeks locked in the pound, a badly abused pit bull that bit another dog will be set free.

Aurora Municipal Court Judge Patricia Hebron ruled Friday that the dog, a 5-year-old pit bull mix named Stallone, should be allowed to go live with his new owner in New Jersey.

DSC_0680Advocates for Stallone had worried in recent weeks that the dog would be euthanized after he attacked a dachshund last month at an Aurora dog park.

Hebron stressed Nov. 8 that while pit bulls are banned from Aurora, they are very rarely euthanized, even in cases where they bite another dog. Typically, the city looks for a solution that sees the dog moved out of town, she said.

“It’s pretty unusual for euthanasia to happen, even in Aurora,” she said.

Stallone’s supporters say he was kidnapped from a family in Arizona and used as a “bait dog” in dog fights before being shot in the back and dumped in the desert. The dog was found and eventually adopted by a man in New Jersey.

On the way from Arizona to New Jersey, the man transporting Stallone stopped at an Aurora dog park Oct. 26, where the dog attacked a dachshund, injuring the smaller pup’s neck.

Juliet Piccone, a lawyer representing Thomas Beard, the man who transported Stallone, said that had Stallone’s kidnappers not filed down his teeth, the damage to the smaller dog could have been a lot worse.

Beard was charged with unlawful possession of a restricted breed, but wasn’t charged with other crimes like having a dangerous animal.

Under an agreement between Beard and prosecutors, Beard pleaded guilty to having a dog at large and agreed to a $700 fine and to pay restitution to the owners of the dachshund, who said they didn’t want Stallone put down.

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Despite howls of protests from a well-organized lobby insisting these sweet-faced pooches are just wrongly maligned teddy bears, the evidence is unwavering, unnerving and indisputable.

BY DAVE PERRY, AURORA SENTINEL EDITOR 11/14/13 6:35 am :: Last updated: 11/14/13 6:38 am

Some things in this world are so complicated and entangled they defy explanation. This is not: Pit bulls are extremely dangerous and too-often deadly dogs that should not be permitted in Aurora, or anywhere else for that matter.

Go ahead. Bark all you want. Despite howls of protests from a well-organized lobby insisting these sweet-faced pooches are just wrongly maligned teddy bears, the evidence is unwavering, unnerving and indisputable. Pit bulls cause savage, agonizing, disfiguring and too-often deadly attacks on people and other animals.

dogsWhile it seemed that this unnaturally odd argument in Aurora was settled in 2006 when the city banned these animals, right along with Denver and most other metro area cities, it’s starting all over again.

Last week, pit bull backers were in full force after a dog named Stallone faced extermination at the city’s dog pound. Stallone’s story, in this week’s Aurora Sentinel, is a sad one all around. The poor, 5-year-old pit bull was once a “bait dog” used in illegal dog fights in Arizona. He has been horribly abused. Rescued by some kind-hearted and misguided pit-bull lovers, his plight won the heart of a New Jersey firefighter, who agreed to adopt him. An equally kind-hearted truck driver agreed to give Stallone a ride to his new home. Along the way, the trucker stopped in Aurora and “kindly” took Stallone to a local dog park for a little fresh air and exercise. Stallone quickly attacked a small dog there, injuring it. The cops were called and Stallone was taken to the doggy hoosegow and given a death sentence. In a city where pit bulls are banned, those that attack people and other dogs rarely make it out of the pound alive.

That’s for a good reason. As clear as the statistics are showing that the majority of deadly dog bites in this country come from just a few breeds, including and especially pit bulls, it’s even clearer that pit-bull biters will bite again.

Stallone’s fate took an unexpected turn when an Aurora judge released the dog to the trucker, who paid some big fines and promised to get the animal right up to New Jersey, where it will probably attack someone or something else. Within hours of the story, the pit bull lobby was in full force, demanding Stallone’s release and sneering at Aurora’s pit-bull laws.

Sneer all you want, what was true in 2006 is just as true today. Pit bull owners have conspired to perpetuate a host of myths, making it seem that Aurora’s pit-bull ban is unreasonable. Once again, the protest signs and signatures pop up: “Ban the deed, not the breed,” and “It’s the owner, not the dog.”

It’s outright dog crap, that’s what that is.

I do not dispute a long list of animal behavior experts, real ones, who insist that pit bulls are not “hard-wired” to kill people. However, I do not dispute animal experts, real ones, who insist that these dogs by their breeding and nature can and do cause especially damaging and deadly attacks when they do attack. These dogs have unusually powerful jaws, clamp down on people and other animals, and shake their prey hard and repeatedly — not like other dogs; Like pit bulls.

It is indisputable that of the 38 people who were killed in the United States by dogs last year, two-thirds of those deaths involved pit bulls, which make up about 4 percent of the U.S. dog population.

It is indisputable that many of these attacks happen to people when the dogs escape their homes and prey on neighbors. The Centers for Disease Control and other government sites have rolls of gruesome maulings and attacks on children, infants and others who were in the wrong place when these animals arrived.

I agree that there are pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds and others that live their entire lives without mauling their owners or anyone else. But it is undeniable that people who have some of these dogs, especially pit bulls, run a much higher risk of being seriously wounded or killed by their pet than do those who own other dog breeds. When they attack, you can’t get your hand back, or your life back.

I agree that it’s the owner who is at fault here, because these dogs no longer belong in communities any more so than do bears, which can also make wonderful pets. It’s too hard to jail people for making really bad choices that affect all of us. But banning their poor choices from Aurora? That’s easy.

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