July 27, 2005

Denver animal lovers rescue pitbulls from death row

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Denver animal lovers have set up an
underground network to save pit bulls from being put to death
under a city measure that bans residents from owning the dog

More than 290 pit bulls have been killed at Denver's dog
pound since the city resumed enforcing the ban in May after
overcoming legal challenges to a ban enacted after a series of
pit bull attacks, including the fatal mauling of a 3-year-old

"Singling out the breed is absurd," said Rita Anderson, a
59-year-old grandmother who is spearheading the rescue effort.

"Instead of punishing family pets, the city should go after
backyard breeders who create vicious dogs by chaining and
beating them," she said.

Anderson and her volunteers have taken about 30 pit bulls
to an animal refuge 100 miles south of Denver where they hope
they will be adopted by people who live in communities that
don't ban the breed.

Denver's ordinance prohibits residents from owning,
breeding or selling American Staffordshire Terriers,
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or American Pit Bull Terriers. The
ban also applies to "any dog displaying the majority of
physical traits" of the three breeds.

Miami, Cincinnati and Toronto have similar pit bull bans.

Doug Kelley, Denver's animal control director, said 430 pit
bulls had been seized since May and 292 had been euthanized.

If a pit bull is confiscated, he said, the owner is given a
grace period to retrieve the dog and sign an affidavit saying
they will remove it from the city. Repeat offenders or strays
picked up by animal control officers are automatically

Kelley said the enforcement of the ban was targeted at
owners who might be moving the dogs within city limits to skirt
the prohibition but officers were not going door-to-door
looking for pit bills to kill, he added.

"The underground rescues aren't really necessary. We will
even escort owners and their dogs to the city limits," he said.

But Sonya Dias is not taking any chances with her
one-year-old pit bull, Gryffindor. She is selling her home and
moving out of Denver. "No one is going to take my dog just
because of the way he looks. He's family," she said.