Breaking up families with friendly pets is one horrible symptom of BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). Denver killed thousands of dogs when it implemented BSL two decades ago and since. Many of them family pets. They were not assessed for temperament, they were killed for having a square head.
But how many were not pit bulls? You may think that is a ridiculous question. That the city would never confiscate an animal that wasn’t a banned breed. This story doesn’t end with a dog being killed, but you can see how it has over the past two decades of the repressive BSL legislation being enforced in Denver.
Monica and Chris live in Littleton. Their driver’s licenses say so. The United States Post Office says so. Their lease also says they live in Littleton. The Denver Animal Control apparently believes it has jurisdiction on their block.
On July 23, 2014, ACO (Animal Control Officer) came to their house. The ACO, Officer B. Williams #3102, came to their home stating that he was there regarding a report of dogs with no food/water/shelter. He needed to do “welfare check”.
The ACO was invited into their home and back yard, to see their living quarters and food. Their two dogs, Leo and Delilah, are indoor pets, but do frequent the backyard. The ACO declined and requested that the dogs be brought outside, where he waited. The couple brought their dogs out, as requested, to meet the officer. Leo and Delilah sat leashed on command, tails wagging at the ACO, proving that they were happy, friendly pets, which were in great condition, and living in a loving family.
He left to go make a phone call in his car. He came back and asked to see the dog’s license, tags, and paperwork, proving that they were fully vaccinated. Monica complied, went inside, and retrieved proof of vet appointments, for all animals, every January. Monica showed tags and paperwork proving that they were fully vaccinated. Even tags for their cats. Monica and Chris had the standard responsible owner documentation.
The ACO asked Monica why they had no Denver tags. She said because they did not live in Denver. A conversation ensued back and forth on the Littleton address and Denver. She and her husband Chris had a lease, a driver’s license, and all their mail that proved that they lived in Littleton.
The ACO went back into his van and was on the phone again for some minutes. ACO then came back, stating the couple would each be ticketed for no Denver tags, which would go away with no fine, if they showed up with both dogs, to DAS to purchase Denver Dog Tags.
As things started getting suspicious in the conversation and Monica, being a homeless pet advocate, saw something afoot, she put the dogs back into the house and locked the door to continue her conversation with the ACO. At this point, Delilah was assessed by the ACO as a Pit Bull, and the couple was told to bring Leo in the next day for Denver Dog Tags, but that he was going to confiscate Delilah. Monica called a friend to pick the dog up, as she did not know how this would play out, but she quickly put into motion a plan to protect her family member, her LEGAL family member, from being confiscated and placed in danger. Monica had two problems with a confiscation of their dog.
- The couple lives in Littleton where, if Delilah was a Pit Bull, there is no law forbidding having this type of dog.
- Even if they were in Denver, Delilah is a mix, which was less than 49% Pit Bull
Monica and Chris did not want to surrender their dog. They had 3 good reasons, two of which are stated above. The third was that Denver Animal Shelter, the holding facility for Animal Control had a Parvo outbreak. Although shelters can address Parvo, and effectively save homeless pets under these circumstances, there was no guarantee Denver Animal Shelter would guarantee the safety of Delilah in the facility.
Monica stated she didn’t want Delilah to be taken and housed at DAS due to this Parvo outbreak that was occurring at DAS, and offered to follow ACO to the shelter for a pit bull evaluation, in her own car.
ACO said “no, an evaluation would take weeks and she could not be evaluated on the spot”. Monica then asked if the ACO was at their home for a welfare check, or rather for looking to enforce BSL, and if so, why didn’t he say that? She received no response. The couple was not comfortable allowing him to confiscate Delilah, based on Parvo, kennel cough, and that they were lied to regarding his visit.
Again Monica offered to take Delilah out of the family home with the promise to have Leo tagged the next day, and to show up with Delilah at their first evaluation opening. The ACO said “no” and that the Denver Police were on their way. ACO said that he had a right to “break the door down and have you arrested” since the couple had “already brought Delilah out to the front yard, and so (he) knew there was a [alleged] pit bull inside the house”.
At this point a family friend showed up and the City of Denver Police arrived. Separately, Monica and Chris told Denver Police that not only did the ACO lie about why he was there, but that he threatened to break their door down to confiscate Delilah. They were offering to fully cooperate with what he wanted; which was to have Delilah evaluated. Just not to stay at the facility during a Parvo outbreak.
Patrol called a Denver Sergeant who said he did not plan on entering their home, and that he would communicate to the ACO Supervisor, that they should be allowed to move Delilah out of their home until the DAS evaluation.
There is no reason to put a healthy dog in unreasonable danger when there was no danger to the public. This was a legally owned pet that the ACO was insisting be treated like a criminal. For simply being a dog which he felt looked like something that might be illegal in Denver.
This family did not see why, a dog that was NOT a pit bull, which caused NO trouble, at an address that allowed pit bulls anyway, needed to be confiscated and taken to a facility with a dangerous disease. The couple repeatedly offered to bring the dog to the shelter to be assessed, complying with the needed request. Once that happened, they could easily take their family pet back home and be done with it. They simply didn’t want their dog to stay in an arguably dangerous facility.
The ACO wanted the dog right then and there. Since the family wanted reasonable compromise, and would not be deterred from surrendering their legal pet, the ACO called the police. The DENVER police showed up. Ultimately, they came to an agreement that if Monica and Chris moved the dog from the premises (to a less regressive zip code), and brought the dog in for assessment, they would not take their dog.
The couple agreed. But they were each cited anyway, by a regressive ACO. Monica received a citation for Interference with the ACO, and Chris was given two citations; one for harboring a banned breed (which as we shall see, was untrue), and one for Interference of the ACO (which they desperately tried to REASONABLY comply).
So Monica called DAS the next day and spoke to Lt. McSpadden, who set the evaluation for the following Wednesday. Lt. McSpadden agreed that the ACO was not there for a welfare check, but that there was an anonymous call that they had a dog that charged someone, but didn’t follow through due to the owners calling the dog off…this “someone” refused to sign the allegation. So the ACO lied to the couple when initially meeting them.
The ACO had apparently already questioned neighbors about the dog’s temperament and being off leash. The dogs have never bitten anyone or been at large, or off leash. Leo and Delilah were reported to be dogs that are friendly family pets.
Monica got a place to stay, which cost the family money out-of-pocket to keep Delilah safe and comply with a law that they should have never had to comply with. She had to live out of her home for a week with her dog, disrupting her life and her family’s life, waiting to get Delilah assessed. If she hadn’t, Delilah would have been housed in a facility with a dangerous disease outbreak. The circumstances could have been tragic.
Monica has reasonably tried to receive help from DAS and the city, to throw away the charges against them. Monica and Chris reasonably tried to comply with the ACO, and protect their healthy family pet from harm. But the city will NOT end their pursuit of this trivial charge. The couple went to court twice, and was not offered a plea. They now have another court date set.
Delilah was brought to Denver Animal Shelter and was assessed on July 30, 2014. She was assessed as a spayed female “American Bull Dog Mix”. Delilah is now legally allowed anywhere in Denver, and was allowed legally anywhere in Denver when the ACO first came to their home.
Upon evaluation, the city quickly dropped the citation for harboring an illegal pet. They did not drop the interference charges.
In an email exchange with Denver Animal Shelter’s Jill Brown, Ms. Brown wrote “for what it’s worth, you know I would have done the same for my dogs too. I get it”.
The Denver Animal Shelter limited services from August 28 to September 1, due to the spread of an upper respiratory infection that “impacted a number of dogs at DAS”. In addition, on August 2, 2014, they announced “In just the past month, Denver Animal Shelter has seen more than 50 cases of Parvovirus in stray and owner surrender dogs coming into the shelter. Canine parvovirus (parvo) is severely contagious, preventable virus that is often fatal in young dogs. To help prevent the spread of this deadly virus, we will be offering FREE parvo vaccinations for dogs under 1 year on a walk-in basis from august 3-9 (2014)”.
Monica supports DAS. In the past, her family even took Leo and Delilah to an event, a costume contest. She was greeted by all staff, management, and ACO, who said they could come to have a free evaluation, to have a letter stating Delilah was an American Bull Dog mix. Monica didn’t think it was necessary, as her family lives in Littleton, and Delilah is not a pit bull.
On 10/28/14, a different city attorney tried to “cut a deal”. Chris and Monica were offered 10 hours of community service, and a 6 month deferred sentence. They are choosing to fight for what’s right.
This is why BSL does nothing to promote public safety. An ACO should be visiting homes that are suspected of abuse, which includes training a pet to be dangerous. But the wasted tax payer dollars looking for dogs that “don’t look right” is government waste and a poor use of the department of Human Services’ money and time. Especially when you cannot assess a breed by looking at one. In this case, a professionally trained city representative created an incident that was completely unnecessary costing taxpayers his time, and the time of police officers, the shelter and the animal control officers involved.