Late last week, news came out about a slight change to the city's 20 year old ban on 'pit bulls'.
Quietly, without any public input, the city adopted a policy that any 'pit bull' that is identified as a service dog will not be impounded. This reverses a decision in which the city stubbornly refused to come into compliance with the official ADA ruling regarding service dogs by voting 9-4 against changes in December.
The change comes as the city is facing several class-action lawsuits from a disabled people who are using 'pit bulls' as service animals.
However, even in changing the rules, Denver still appears to be in violation of the ADA because they put policies in place that allow them to investigate a service animal to "verify or disaffirm an owner, keeper or possessor's claim that the pit bull is a qualified service animal." This investigation can include checking to be sure the dog is not aggressive toward people or other animals, is tolerant of strange sights, sounds, odors, etc in a "wide variety" of public settings, and ignores food dropped on the floor in the dog's vicinity while working outside the home. Such interrogation is not allowed under the ADA (I can already see ACO Doug Kelley trying to confiscate a service dog now for having an affinity for peperoni sticks).
The Denver rules do allow the dog to be confiscated if the dog is determined to be a threat based on its behavior or actions on a case-by-case basis. This is allowed under the ADA -- and is actually the most effective policy regardless of whether the dog is a service dog or not.
You can read the policy in its entirety here (it's 4 pages).
Meanwhile, apparently Doug Kelley is now saying that these exemptions for service dogs have been allowed all along. According to an article in the Denver Daily News, Kelley said:
"We have always allowed pit bulls as service dogs. I think what they're talking about is it was memorialized in writing."
I guess that's one way to look at it. But interesting that this comes up 6 months after the city voted to NOT allow for exemptions. In that meeting, Councilman Charlie Brown urged his colleagues to not "roll over and play dead" when it comes to abiding by the federal law and also expressed concern that people would "game the system" to keep aggressive dogs by saying they were service dogs. He even warned about "Paraplegic drug dealers". No kidding.
After that meeting, the Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell declined do comment about the council's decision saying:
"Projecting who might sue us, or how they might sue us, is something with some senstivitiy around it."
That doesn't sound like the words of people who always felt there was an exemption.
Fortunately, Jennifer Edwards, the attorney with the Animal Law Center has called Kelley out on his rewriting of history:
"I suppose this is their newest tactic to say, 'This is how has always been.' If that were the case, we would have never had people denied by Doug Kelley himself to have pit bulls service dogs, we would have never had to get a signed stipulation between our office and the City of Denver protecting our clients in March last year, and we would have never had to file a federal lawsuit."
Oh yeah, all that stuff.
Meanwhile, David Broadwell -- the same guy who declined to comment about who might sue the city after the council declined to pass the exception for service animals -- is now also saying this has always been policy.
"Both before and after the Council discussion in December 2010, our animal control officers have acted in accordance with the new ADA regulations in the actual day-to-day enforcement of the pit bull ordinance even though the ordinance does not expressly recognize this exception.”
Apparently the folks in Denver think a) they can rewrite history and b) that their constituents are too ignorant to notice. Keep it classy folks.
So if you are in Denver, now is your chance to rewrite the future.
Tomorrow, Denver will be hosting a city-wide election for a new mayor and city council members. Bless the Bullies has some of the candidate's positions here, and one more here, and here's a more detailed spreadsheet with the info from each of the council districts.
If you live in Denver, please make your voice heard. Even if you are not an animal lover, your tax dollars continue to be used to fight off lawsuits to keep a law that is not working and continue to disrupt people's lives. And the council and city leaders continue to perpetuate hysteria in the face of facts, and then are trying to re-write history in order to make themselves look less foolish.
Best of luck to the good candidates in Denver tomorrow.