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‘Dangerous breeds’ must be regulated, restricted

Marco Diaz

With HB1279, Colorado has finally joined the majority of states in terms of a dog bite law. With such a “strict liability” law in place, the Colorado Legislature recognizes what many dog owners do not, that is: No dog is 100 percent predictable and that all dogs can and may bite.

In choosing to own a dog, owners must recognize the potential for harm associated with that ownership.

In the United States there are almost 5 million dog bites annually, with approximately 1,000 people visiting the emergency room daily with dog bite-related injuries. Children have a rate three times higher than adults for medically attended bites. Dog attacks cause 15 to 20 deaths a year.

Dog bites account for approximately one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims; approximately $310 million annually. Of course not all dogs that cause injuries are owned by people who are insured.

While the new law has been a long time coming, I think it is unfortunate that a late amendment to the bill removes the ability of communities to pass breed-specific legislation.

While record does exist of a Pomeranian killing a 6-week-old infant, and some 30 breeds or breed types have been associated with human deaths, a select few breeds are responsible for the majority of serious injuries.

Dog bites do have a statistical genetic link. So called “dangerous breeds” tend to cause more injuries and more serious harm when they do attack. Dangerous breeds tend to have a more prolonged and aggressive “red-zone” when they attack; that is to say, when a dog such as a pit bull bites, it is more likely to turn into a full-fledged attack than, say, a defensive nip from a golden retriever. Dogs in the “red zone” of an attack lose most, if not all, training responses.

While breed specific laws are difficult to enforce, they do serve to guide the public away from ownership of the breeds that cause significant problems.

There is no evidence to suggest that people living in communities with breed-specific legislation are less apt to properly train other breeds. Nor is there evidence to suggest that owners of dangerous breeds are less likely to practice “aggression-prevention” training.

Breed-specific legislation need not specifically ban certain breeds. Breed-specific legislation can be specific to muzzles or leash lengths. Breed-specific legislation can be used to limit breeding of certain breeds or limit ownership of certain breeds to a single dog.

The majority of recent maulings and deaths have occurred when two or more dogs from dangerous breeds have attacked together. This has been the case each of the recent, well-publicized Denver-area attacks.

With HB1279, communities have no way of preventing people from owning packs of pit bulls or Rottweilers. HB1279 prevents communities from enforcing muzzles or shorter leashes for certain breeds when in public.

The litmus test of legislative intent is to protect public health and welfare. A ban on breed-specific legislation does not meet that test.

Communities should be allowed to take measures that protect the public. Measures can be taken to better protect the public from dangerous breeds without banning these breeds. HB1279 makes this impossible.

I wonder how the legislators that pushed the “breed ban” amendment will feel when a child is mauled and disfigured by a “legal” pit bull within the Denver city limits.

When choosing a dog, I would encourage people to explore the many wonderful breeds of dogs that are available in lieu of statistically dangerous breeds, whether or not the dangerous breed is banned. Most dangerous breeds were never intended to be family dogs.

Marco Diaz and his family have owned more than 40 dogs, including working, racing and guard dogs, as well as a few dangerous breeds. Approximately two years ago, an attack by a neighbor’s unleashed pit bull caused the death of a family pet and injuries to his wife. Diaz has since become a vocal proponent of increased enforcement of leash laws and responsible pet ownership valleywide.


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