Tonight’s the night.
Denver City Council is expected to decide whether to override Mayor Michael Hancock’s veto of the ordinance that would lift the city’s decades-old ban on pit bulls.
The majority of council approved the legislation in a 7-4 vote earlier this month, but two of the members who were absent — Councilwomen Stacie Gilmore and Candi CdeBaca — had, respectively, voted against the measure and abstained in an earlier roll call.
Kendra Black, Jolon Clark, Chris Hinds, Robin Kniech, Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres voted on Feb. 10 in favor of Councilman Chris Herndon’s proposal. Kevin Flynn, Paul Kashmann, Debbie Ortega and Amanda Sawyer couldn’t bring themselves to back the bill.
The council will now need a super majority — or nine votes — to effectively end the ban, which prohibits three breeds that fall under the pit bull label. If no member has had a change of heart, it’s unlikely that Councilman Chris Herndon, who led the bill, will leave the meeting with a win under his belt.
But the councilman said, if that’s the case, he stands ready to work on a measure for the November ballot to let Denver’s voters decide.
Hancock wrote in a Feb. 14 letter to the city council that “after deep reflection and consideration,” he could not “in good conscience” support the legislation. The decision marked the first time the mayor had ever vetoed a bill, something he told reporters during a 5 p.m. press conference that he felt “hopeful” he would never have to do in his three-term tenure.
“The reality is that irresponsible pet owners continue to be a problem, and it is the irresponsible owners and their dogs I must consider in evaluating the overall impact of this ordinance,” he wrote. “We cannot diminish the very real, very traumatic experiences of those who have reached out to me to share their stories.”
“I’m disappointed the mayor is choosing to disregard the science on the issue of breed-specific legislation," Herndon said in a statement in response to the veto. "Research tells us breed-specific legislation is ineffective at keeping communities safe and experts in the field — from the local level to the national level — agree it is no longer best practice.
"I hope my colleagues on Council will support an evidence-based approach to our animal ordinance, rather than one steeped in fear and stereotypes.”
According to data collected by Denver Animal Protection, pit bulls were not the most dangerous dogs in 2019.
Of the 518 dogs reported last year, Labrador retrievers topped the list with 54 bites, followed by German shepherds with 49 bites, American bulldogs with 41 bites, then pit bulls with 38 bites. Other breeds in the top 10 list included Australian cattle dogs, Siberian Huskies, Chihuahuas, Border collies, Boxers and Bull terriers.
There will not be an additional public hearing, which occurred Feb. 10, on the issue at tonight’s council meeting. The members are expected to vote on the issue shortly after the meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.