Castle Rock BSL 3/7/2018
Jessi Harris No Kill Colorado
As many of you know, last night was the Castle Rock Town Council meeting where we observed the hearing of the Council and the Castle Rock Citizens as they discussed replacing Breed Specific Legislation with a responsible dog ownership plan that is Two-Tiered. Representatives from No Kill Colorado have not only attended this meeting, but we have also been at both the open houses to show our support for this replacement and revision of the current animal code in Castle Rock that has been in place for the last 25 years.
The City and Deputy Town Attorneys, led by attorney Heidi Hugdahl, made a thorough and impressive proposal to the Council and did an incredible job at pointing out the facts of BSL and why it is outdated and not the right way to keep citizens safe from dogs that are actually aggressive.
We were informed that about 150 people attended the two town hearings and that the community was reached out to across the board to inform them of the idea being placed in front of council. There have been about 530 responses from the public received, 450 of those included components related to replacing the breed ban with the two-tiered dangerous dog ban. Of those that were self-identified specifically as residents, 60 were for the replacement of the breed ban and only 8 wanted to keep the ban. All responses were completely unsolicited from both sides.
The two-tiered system would base the animal ordinance on a case by case basis, tailored to actual behavior by the individual dog. It would enable an educating process for those with animals with behavior issues. If the dog is deemed aggressive, there will be a system that will allow for the situation to be resolved with obedience training and tickets and fines and circumstances for each individual case that will fix the issue, such as fencing, leashing, muzzling, etc. If the owner does not comply with their Court Orders, the dog can either be removed from Castle Rock or be euthanized depending on the circumstance. This would make the judgment based on the behavior of the dog and not what it looks like.
The Town Attorneys made a great argument that the breed ban actually makes citizens of a BSL area LESS safe because the animals are being hid, they are not attending obedience classes, they are not being socialized or exercised. They mentioned 25 years ago when the ban was initially enacted, “Pit Bulls” were much different. They were not so commonly bred with other dogs to make them virtually visually indistinguishable aside from a DNA test that is mysterious at best and proves nothing as to the behavior of the dog. The attorneys also mentioned that most cities and counties around Castle Rock do not have breed bans and that only 9 states have cities or counties that have breed bans (WE NEED TO FACT CHECK THIS).
Most jurisdictions have found that breed is not a component of aggressive or dangerous behavior, instead, it is the lack of training, the lack of an able-bodied person to intervene should there be an incident, an isolated dog, or a non-family dog, a dog that has been abused or neglected, a dog that has not been spayed or neutered, or animals that have been left unattended. Any dog can be put under these circumstances and any dog can bite. We need to be responsible animal owners, no matter what breed they are.
It was stated that over the last 13 years, 80 dogs have been removed from Castle Rock due to the breed ban, and NOT ONE was because they were aggressive. Every single dog that has been removed due to the breed ban was only removed due the ban itself, causing citizens to have to relocate, break up their family, or worse, because of a breed ban that accused an innocent animal of aggressive behavior that they never have shown. We were also informed that breed bans are challenging to enforce and are a burden when other more important issues are needing to be addressed instead.
The two-tiered system is either used in other municipalities, or they are moving toward it, and none of the current municipalities that are using the two-tiered system have had a rise in bite statistics so far. The Two-Tiered system would allow for a permit process that is much more advanced than the current system. Requirements would include vaccination records, microchips, and physical descriptions of the dogs. If a dog is deemed aggressive, there will be restrictions for that specific dog resulting in tickets, fines and actions for those that do not abide, similar to the state system for this matter. If a dog and their owner have had no further violations and have taken the precautions and abided by the order, after 30 months they can apply to be delisted.
As part of the presentation, we heard from a local Castle Rock veterinarian who has been practicing in Castle Rock since 2001. She was well-spoken and passionate about the fact that breed specific legislation causes a dilemma with law abiding citizens and animal control officers and that they could be put under legal pressures as animal care professionals. With a two-tiered system, vets and animal control officers can have the authority to ask people to get obedience training for their pets. We must make no mistake, there are “pit bull” type dogs in Castle Rock now, and she asked if by allowing breed specific legislation to stand as it currently does, what does that mean for the citizens that are currently living in Castle Rock with these dogs now?
Then, the public had the opportunity to speak. Of those, 5 spoke for the Replacement of BSL.
We heard from an animal behaviorist with 30 years of experience who stated that breed does not predict behavior. This is incredibly important to remind our councilmembers as they move forward with their decision. In her 30 years, she had only dealt with one pit bull bite out of all the other dogs. Anecdotal, but a point nonetheless.
We had a local animal lover who started End Castle Rock BSL speak who mentioned that when animals are treated as property and are taken from citizens, she wants to know what is next. Councilmembers who take personal property, as dogs are legally treated, should be treated warily by citizens voting them into office. Her point was that a Breed Ban is a violation of personal property rights of law abiding dog owners. Other arguments included those from a volunteer with over 400 hours of experience over the last 16 months alone, another from a volunteer of Denver Dumb Friends League who lightened the mood and said that she is for the end of BSL in Castle Rock as she prefers protection from any citizen with any animal, no matter what they are… whether they are a pet dog of a specific breed or a pet mountain lion.
3 spoke for Keeping the Breed Specific Ban in Place.
Of those for keeping the ban in place, arguments included “pit-bulls don’t let go like other dogs do.” This person’s dog was allegedly attacked by a “pit-bull” and the dog was at the hearing. For the record, we are sorry any dog is attacked and wish this on no animal ever, however, we must state that there were no visual scars or wounds apparent on the dog that was allegedly attacked.
Another woman stated that it is “statistically proven” that “pit-bulls” “maul” and that her children are of the perfect “bite-height.” She also claims that when she is out on the trails, she would feel inclined to carry a gun to protect her children from “pit-bulls.” She also asked “what type of people would benefit by lifting the ban?”
Her husband also spoke and asked for a vote by the public. He referenced that Aurora’s similar vote three years ago did not pass and that he thought would be the same in Castle Rock should it be put to a vote. He then went on to provide anecdotal references of attacks of dogs alleged to be “pit-bulls” in graphic detail. Another gentleman spoke and asked why the attorney’s presentation included no opposing viewpoint to replacing the ban. He also claimed that there are definitely differences in a “pit-bull” than other dogs and that breed bites are specific to “pit-bulls,” although no evidence was provided in his arguments and he did not introduce himself as an expert of any sort.
When non-residents were given the chance to speak, there was a volunteer from 2BlondesAllBreed Rescue, for the replacement of BSL. She had worked with the breed in question and has not found them to be more aggressive than any other breed. (It should be noted that at this point, all those opposed to lifting the ban that had already spoke had left and did not stay to hear the points of those wishing for a replacement of the current legislation).
Another for the replacement of BSL had been a citizen of Castle Rock, moved out of state for a few years and moved back to Colorado with her newly adopted “pit-bull” type dog and could not move back to Castle Rock and buy a home there due to the breed specific legislation.
There was a gentleman who provided more anecdotal evidence in support of his knowledge of “pit-bulls” being the type of dog that are “known for killing and for biting and not letting go.” He believes the breed is dangerous. He suggested putting the argument to voters of the town. He had a malamute that he couldn’t take raw meat from and considered that a breed trait, and that he can attest that in the same breed trait, “pit-bulls” are killers and they shouldn’t be allowed in a town (it should be noted of which he is not a resident).
Another non-resident who grew up in Castle Rock and was a member of a family that has lived in Castle Rock for generations spoke and said she moved because of the ban and claimed that she has lots of friends her age that also are leaving Castle Rock because of the ban. She advocated for proper pet ownership instead of a breed ban.
Once it came back to the Council, Council member Teal stated that he wants the BSL issue to be separate from the entirety of the animal ordinance being proposed which includes, bees, chickens, goats, pigs, and bees. He said that more time is necessary to gather all the facts. He said that he likes the two-tiered proposal but he wants it separated from the other ordinances.
Council member Townsend stated that he thought the town attorneys did a great job and that they were thorough. He said he is fine with the ordinance proposal with all the animals included and he also mentioned the high attendance for all the open houses on the matter.
Council member Loban mentioned that he, too, would like to see the animal ordinances separated so that the BSL replacement would be separate from the ordinances related to urban farms and goats, pigs, bees, and chickens.
The Council was motioned to a 5-2 vote by Mayor Green, Council members Loban and Teal were the 2.
Council member Bower said he thought the ordinance is old and has flaws and that he supports the two-tiered system and wants to continue the conversation on urban farming. Council member Ford said that after he had talked to legal staff, he agrees that it is time to revisit the breed specific legislation. He said that he believes dogs are a part of the family and is against them being taken away from citizens. He said he has made his decision and doesn’t need to spend more time on this, that he doesn’t want to legislate every part of people’s lives. Mayor Green said that she has learned a lot from all that she has heard over the course of the discussion and that she had not known that “pit-bulls” were not one breed of dog, but rather were a classification of multiple breeds of dogs.
In conclusion, the Council ended up voting 5-2 in favor of moving the code to first reading. The Council meeting at which the first reading will take place has not been scheduled yet. Castle Rock Citizens, we need you to reach out to your Council members to let them know you support their decision to move the code to the first reading! We need Castle Rock Citizens, specifically, to speak up and tell their Council members what they want, so please, share with all Castle Rock citizens! Council member Loban specifically said that he has not received one phone call from anyone wishing to replace breed specific legislation with the two-tiered system. Let’s change that, for Council member Loban, and for all the Council members. Let’s help educate them.
If you are a Castle Rock citizen, please contact your council members, they want to hear from their citizens! Remember to be kind, professional and cordial to your Council!
Email them all at once at: TownCouncil@CRgov.com
Call and email them individually as well.
Jennifer Green, Mayor- District 3: firstname.lastname@example.org
Renee Valentine- District 5: email@example.com
Jess Loban- District 1: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Townsend- District 2: email@example.com
Jason Bower- District 4: firstname.lastname@example.org
George Teal- District 6: email@example.com
Brett Ford- District 7: firstname.lastname@example.org