Can You Own a Pitbull in Denver?

cute image of a pitbull with grey fur

In January of 2021, the city of Denver elected to overturn a decades long ban on pitbulls within the city. Residents may now own up to two pit bulls, but the dogs are still considered “restricted breeds,” and owners must take special steps to lawfully keep them on and in their premises. Read our article to find out how you can own a pitbull in Denver and what the specific requirements are for having one.

Why Were Pitbulls Banned in Denver?

Before we begin, it is useful to take a look at why Denver banned pit bulls in the first place. The name “pit bull” actually applies to three distinct breeds: the American Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier. 

These breeds originated in the 19th century British isles where they were primarily used in vicious bloodsports. The common name arose from one particularly horrific sport known as “bull baiting,” in which several of the dogs were pitted against an enraged bull tied to a stake. When that practice became outlawed, the dogs were instead pitted against one another. Dog fighting continued legally well into the twentieth century, and pit bulls are still the predominant breed of choice for illegal fighting rings. 

Their bloody history means that pit bulls have earned a reputation as violent creatures, capable of unpredictable bouts of aggression. Unfortunately, the statistics are supportive of this reputation: the American Animal Hospital Association found that 22.5% of all reported dog bites were caused by pit bull breeds. A massive bite force of 235 pounds means the bites are not only more prevalent among these breeds, they also cause more damage. 

The Denver pitbull ban was first enacted in the 80s following an alarming number of bites between 1984 and 1986. During those two years, twenty attacks were reported with one fatality-a three year old child. The city responded with a firm ban against all dogs with a majority of physical features shared with the three main pit bull breeds. 

Owning a Pitbull Today in Denver

Of course, not all pit bulls will bite. They can and do make wonderful pets with the right owners and under the right circumstances. For this reason, Denver residents voted to overturn the pit bull ban two years ago, allowing ownership of up to two pitties in exchange for adherence to strict guidelines. 

In order to legally own a pit bull in the city of Denver, owners must have their dog evaluated in person by Denver Animal Protection. The exam takes about 40 minutes and can be scheduled online at the Denver Animal Shelter. The assessment will determine if the dog shares a majority of physical characteristics with the pit bull breeds. If so, the owner will be required to purchase a Breed-Restricted permit.

The permit will need to be renewed annually for three years. If the dog has no reported incidents at that time, owners can request an exemption from future permits and restricted breed status. 

Even individuals just visiting the city are required to have a Restricted Breed permit in order to legally bring their pit bull to Denver. Anyone with a restricted breed that does not have a permit or exemption is subject to a fine, possible court appearance, and ultimately removal of the pet from the home. 

What if a Pitbull Bites You in Denver?

Just because pitbulls are allowed in Denver does not mean owners are not responsible for their actions. In addition to obtaining the special restricted breeds permit, all dog owners are required to be licensed in the city. They must also be supervised and humanely restrained at all times (via a fence, for example). 

If you were bitten or otherwise injured by an aggressive dog, including a pit bull, contact Dave Roth with the Roth Group. Dog bites can be a truly terrifying experience, and owners should be held responsible for their pets’ actions. If you or a loved one had an accident involving a dog, call or go online today to schedule a free consultation.