Breckenridge, CO mulling possible breed restrictions

In the wake of a dog-on-dog attack in August, the town of Breckenridge, Colorado is seeking feedback about possible restrictions or bans on certain dog breeds.

A majority of town council members wanted a public process initiated to see how the community felt about a possible ban, and a survey on the Engage Breckenridge website currently allows community members to weigh in.

The survey asks what people perceive to be the most dangerous breeds.  The list includes doberman pinscher, mastiff, German shepherd, pit bull, malamute, chow, rottweiler, husky or other.  The survey also asks what the biggest dog issue is in Breckenridge, and if there should be more restrictions, or a ban, on specific breeds deemed more dangerous.

To date, most of the survey responses are encouraging more preventative measures such as holding owners responsible, or leashes and muzzles instead of regulating breeds.  None of the responses received thus far have supported a ban on any breeds of dogs.

In her September 3, 2013 memo, Police Chief Shannon Haynes reported, per the council’s request, on breed specific bans within the state of Colorado.  Her research found that eight communities have banned specific breeds: Denver, Aurora, Fort Lupton, Lone Tree, Louisville, Castle Rock, Commerce City and La Junta.   Most of the cities with breed specific laws target “American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits or genetic markers of any one of these breeds.”

The memo also states that Colorado passed a statute prohibiting municipalities from enacting breed specific bans in 2004.  Denver filed a civil complaint citing their ability as a “home rule” entity to enact and enforce legislation as a matter of local or jurisdictional concern, and the District Court upheld the home rule right, and allowed their ban to stand.  The memo also discusses other legal challenges to Denver’s pit bull ordinance.

Colorado home rule municipalities are self-governing under the Constitution of the State of Colorado and the home rule charter of each municipality. The home rule charter determines the form of government.   Breckenridge is a home rule city.

The State of Colorado and Summit County, specifically, have laws dealing with dangerous dogs. In September, Lesley Hall, Summit County Animal Control director, wrote a letter to the county manager regarding dangerous dogs and breed-specific laws.  “Adopting dangerous dog laws that are comprehensive rather than breed selective (is) more effective in addressing public safety since all dogs are included,” she said.

At a presentation to town council in September, the police chief advised that since 2011, the town has issued 15 citations for 31 bite calls, none of which involved pit bulls.   In fact, she advised there were very few pit bulls licensed in Breckenridge and that, statistically, the number of bites is not more than other dogs.

Mayor John Warner, Councilman Ben Brewer and Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney said they to reach out to the community and get more information on the issue.   McAtamney said she was concerned about bigger dog problems, such as dogs on the loose. Councilmen Mike Dudick and Gary Gallagher said they would support a ban.

You can reach out to the town council with your polite and respectful opposition to breed discriminatory ordinances, as well as educational materials for their consideration, but at this point, it is probably best to use the community forum as the council members are reading the responses.  Let them know that breed discriminatory ordinances are ineffective, costly and do not maintain public safety.  You can also use the Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator to illustrate how much a breed specific ordinance would cost the city.

The Engage Breckenridge survey about possible restrictions for certain dog breeds will remain online until Monday, Nov. 4.

Online contact form for mayor and town council: http://www.townofbreckenridge.com/index.aspx?recordid=55&page=286

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