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Aurora poised to back off, a bit, from its 'bully' breed ban
City not so willing to test limits of litigation over service dogs
January 10, 2011
By Jared Jacang Maher, Face The State

Another city the Denver metro area is grappling with the issue of pit bulls as service dogs.

Aurora is considering allowing pit bulls and other outlawed breeds back into the city for use as service animals for the disabled. Under a proposal being studied by the Aurora City Council tonight, service dogs would be exempted from a 2005 law banning pit bulls and eight other so-called fighting breeds if the owner obtains a special "Restricted Breed License."

The proposed change is in response to a Department of Justice ruling taking effect March 15 that says cities that don't accept all breeds of dogs as service animals because of existing breed bans could be found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A similar attempt to adjust Denver's pit bull ban was rejected by the Denver City Council in a 9-4 vote in early December.

Both Aurora and Denver are defendants in a federal class-action lawsuit filed last May by three people who use pit bulls to assist them with various psychological disabilities. One of the plaintiffs in the case, Allen Grider, alleges that Aurora Animal Control violated his civil rights when the agency coaxed him from his Aurora apartment and seized his pit bull "Precious." Grider, a Vietnam veteran, relies on the dog as a service animal to help him cope with symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Grider's case is unrelated to a memo released by the Department of Justice last summer stating that the disabled have the right to possess a service dog of their choosing, regardless of local laws. Still, Aurora City Attorney Bill Richardson advised the council that the impending change to the ADA will leave Aurora exposed to more lawsuits. Unlike Denver, which prohibits only pit bulls, Aurora's ban also includes eight other "bully breeds" that were historically bred for fighting: American Bulldog, Dogo Argentiino, Canary Dog, Presa Mallorquin, Tosa Inu, Cane Corso and Fila Brasileiro.

The proposed ordinance would allow banned dogs to qualify for a "Restricted Breed Licensee" if the animal is "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability."
However, the bill specifically states the exemption would not cover the kind of "emotional support, comfort or companion" animals that have traditionally pushed the limits on what kinds of disabilities should qualify under the federal law.

The current draft of the law says that service animals from a banned breed must be neutered and must be implanted with a microchip by Aurora Animal Control.

Following tonight's study session, the bill could be introduced before the Aurora City Council as early as next week.

Contact the author at [email protected] or 720-279-9870 x106.

Aurora poised to back off, a bit, from its 'bully' breed ban | Face the State
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