Bulldog mixes, Terrier mixes and Labrador mixes of Denver, rejoice—as of Jan. 2021, you can reveal your true self. In a historic moment, the residents of Denver voted to overturn the 30-year-old citywide pit bull ban in favor of a restricted license.
Pit bulls can come out of hiding as long as they're microchipped and their owners comply with additional requirements, including paying a higher registration fee, maintaining appropriate paper work and having no issues for three years before the restrictive license is removed, according to The Denver Post.
While this is a huge step forward that should be celebrated, it’s (unfortunately) just a drop in the bucket. One piece of legislature isn’t going to change anyone’s mind on the breed; those who advocate for pit bull-like breeds will continue supporting them, while those that oppose them will jump at any hint of perceived aggression or danger to re-banish these pups.
Just take a look at the ban’s tumultuous history: After its enactment in 1989, there was a brief glimmer of hope in 2004 as the ruling was overturned following Colorado state legislature that outlawed breed-specific bans in cities. However, it only lasted a year until the state’s Supreme Court switched course and ruled that dog breed bans were local issues and, following four attacks, Denver jumped at the opportunity to reinstate its ban.
Unsurprisingly, that sort of back-and-forth is reflective of the breed’s international perception from fighter to lover back to fighter. Initially bred for fighting purposes in 1800s on the British Isles, the dogs were rebranded as “American Pit Bull Terriers” when they came over after the Civil War and found their place as America’s mascot during the World Wars and warmed hearts in television scenes (see Petey, from The Little Rascals) due to their loyal and loving nature.
However, the breed’s fall from grace was sudden as the Supreme Court passed the Animal Welfare Act of 1976, which made dogfighting illegal in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. As dogfighting moved underground, people began to seek out pit bulls to groom them for battle, which led to a series of illicit breeding of these animals in an attempt to highlight the traits that brought out their aggressive nature.
That underground fighting ring created a stereotype that’s seemingly impossible to throw—according to Dec. 2019 numbers, pit bulls are still banned in cities across Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
That’s not even mentioning that virtually every state has cities that place some sort of restrictions on owning pit bulls, whether it’s mandatory sterilization, compulsory pet insurance, specific enclosure requirements or simply being declared dangerous, high-risk pets.
Even in areas where these dogs face no restrictions there’s still implicit biases—I see it every time someone crosses the street or quickly picks up their Schnauzer or Shih Tzu when I’m walking my pit bull.
The owners of these loving pups can’t fight this stereotype alone. Manufacturers and retailers need to come together to help de-stigmatize the breed and showcase what wonderful pets they can be when they’re raised with responsible ownership. Try taking a page out of I and Love and You’s book, as the company will be donating 2,500 meals to My Fairy Dawg Mother, a rescue in Denver that specializes in hard-to-adopt dogs—including pit bulls.