Monday, November 17, 2008

Aurora Pit Bull ban going to court

Florence Vianzon Sasek hopes she can take Isis outside for a walk through her Aurora neighborhood again without strapping a pink leather muzzle over the dog's mouth.

Isis, a 5-year-old American Staffordshire terrier mix, can't ride in the car without being enclosed in a locked crate and is not allowed to roam her backyard without supervision.

Today, Vianzon Sasek's lawsuit challenging the city of Aurora's pit-bull ban goes to trial in U.S. District Court in Denver before Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel.

The case was filed on her behalf by the American Canine Foundation, a Washington state-based group focused on protecting the rights of dog owners and promoting responsible dog ownership.
Vianzon Sasek's lawsuit says that Aurora's ban on the breeds is unconstitutional, that the ordinance is vague and that the law was passed unnecessarily.

In February 2006, the Aurora ban went into effect, targeting several breeds that are considered pit bulls or dogs that have the physical characteristics of pit bulls.

Vianzon Sasek owned Isis before the ban and is allowed to keep her dog if she complies with certain rules, such as erecting a 6-foot fence around her property and paying $200 a year in licensing fees.

Aurora's restricted-breed ordinance already has been challenged in state court and was upheld, said Aurora's City Attorney Charlie Richardson.

A similar legal challenge to Denver's pit-bull ban is pending before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judges in Utah, New Mexico, Washington, Arkansas and most recently, Ohio, also have upheld pit-bull ordinances.

"I am very hesitant to comment on the merits of the ban on the eve of a federal trial," Richardson said. "However, we will, of course, provide evidence to the court that our restricted-breed ordinance was and is lawful."

Aurora passed the ban shortly after the city and county of Denver adopted their own ordinance after a series of attacks involving pit bulls.

The American Canine Foundation reviewed incident reports from Aurora in 2003 to 2005 that showed almost 2 percent of injuries from canines were attributed to dogs that were classified as pit bulls. The other 98 percent involved breeds ranging from Jack Russell terriers to a St. Bernard.

City statistics show that in 2006, there were eight restricted-breed attacks on humans, compared with 123 attacks by other dogs on humans.

Last year, there were 11 attacks by restricted breeds on humans and 150 attacks by other dogs.
Glen Bui, a co-founder of the foundation, believes the city should focus on behaviors of individual dogs rather than an entire breed. He also said that owners like Vianzon Sasek, who are most likely to comply with the ordinance, are not the problem.

"The law does nothing to target illegal activity like dog fighting," Bui said. "Because (some owners) are criminals, they are not going to follow a breed-specific law."

Vianzon Sasek says she didn't want to move out of Aurora because her son is attending a charter school that was tough to get into. She also didn't want to give up her beloved Isis and decided to do all she could to comply with the ordinance while she fights it.

"It's an emotional thing," Vianzon Sasek said, while petting Isis in her living room last week. "Who wants to touch a dog with a muzzle on?"

Here is the comment I posted on the Denver Post web site: I can't believe that the government has ever thought that breed specific legislation was going to work. Glen Bui is right, some owners are criminals, why would they be interested in following any law, much less one that bans their breeds that they use for despicable criminal behavior? Pits are incredible quality dogs, but they are only for good quality owners such as Vianzon Sasek. They are smart, they excel at almost any task they are given, and they have been given a seriously bad rap because they have been used for illegal activities so many years. When are people going to get that we humans are the problem with most pets, and passing more laws will not fix stupid human behavior. Sadly, we can't euthanize stupid humans who have no conscience, morals or values, therefore we often take very innocent lives that cannot defend themselves.

Callie very likely has some American Stafford Shire Terrier in her. She has the ears, the tail, the muscle bound build. Would I have gone out and deliberately picked a Pit Bull as my pet? No. I didn't know enough about them, and I have been leery of them as well. There is one in my neighborhood that I avoid, not because he has ever shown any aggression whatsoever; however, I have seen how his owner treats him, and don't want to be around him when his owner isn't there, or even when his owner is there. I also know that our local humane society routinely adopts out Pits, and have been told they make incredible pets by the owners who have adopted them. And I am lucky enough to now be experiencing that for myself. Spaying and neutering is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is stopping the spread of over population (we should do that with many humans as well), but owners have told me that they believe it essential to tame any kind of aggression in any dog who has hormones raging through their bodies. Sadly, Pit Bulls are a target, and it violently unfair. Thank God for the individuals who have gotten involved in rehabilitating Michael Vick's dogs. I hope it works to change some perceptions. I have forever believed it is never the dog, it is always the owner. Most others who have commented on the article have agreed with me. Sadly, if I ever wanted to move back to Denver, I can't simply because I have Callie, and their law has been upheld, and I won't leave my dog. As a responsible owner, it is my job to care for her, exercise her, manage her behavior, and always remember that above anything else, she is a dog, and as with any dog, she has the ability to attack for whatever reason, but it is extremely rare that an attack comes out of absolutely nowhere.

On a side note: I was reading about Michael Vick saying that he intends to sign with an NFL team upon release from prison. It will be a very sad day if an NFL team even considers him after what he did. Two years in prison was simply not enough. The fact that he thinks he has the possibility of playing ball again shows me how little conscience he has and that he very likely believes he did nothing wrong. That makes my skin crawl. The pictures I have seen of the dogs are very sweet, and they are lucky. The people working with them understand dogs, dog behavior and know how to meet them where they are. I am impressed.

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