The barking begins every morning at around 6 a.m. in my cozy Louisville, Colorado neighborhood, alerting that dog owners are leaving for work. However, one voice is not heard: Duke, Dan Antaya’s Pit Bull mix. Because of a Louisville city ordinance passed in 2006, Duke was banished from Antaya’s home and is living with friends in a city where Pit Bulls are legal.
“The struggle to find housing where Duke, my other dog Tyler, and I could live together started about a year ago when I relocated to Colorado. I was finally able to find something about 6 months ago, but even though the property owners had no issue,” the house was in Louisville, says Antaya, who owns K9 Consulting Services, a Longmont, Colorado dog training company. He also runs the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program (more about that later).
“Now that the lease is up, I am unable to find housing again, partially due to both dogs weighing more than 50 lbs. but very much related to the type of dog Duke is, and the amount of cities in Colorado enforcing breed bans, we may have to leave the state.”
Does Banning Pit Bulls Make Sense?
Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, is well-known and controversial, as described in this For Pit’s Sake blog post. We’ve all heard the pro and con arguments to allowing certain breeds into a city. And there are setbacks even in cities that allow the breed.
How Do Breed Bans Affect Individuals And Cities?
For Antaya, “BSL affects me in the sense that I must live apart from my dog due to the city ordinance, and also prevents me from taking him to other cities that ban the breed. I fear of having him seized just for passing through to get to another location.” Besides that, many great pit bull owners don’t have the opportunity to show what good citizens their dogs are in cities in which they are banned. Thus, people tend to shun those breeds.
Why? One reason, according to the National Canine Research Council:
“While serious attacks by dogs are very rare, the intense media coverage that may accompany such an incident can mislead the public and/or lawmakers into imagining that dogs pose a significant threat to the community. Sensationalized publicity, combined with a lack of understanding of the infrequency of dog attacks, and of their causes, has resulted in reactive and uniformed policies directed against certain types of dogs. In no other American city has this dynamic played itself out more tragically than in Denver” and other Colorado breed ban areas.
The problems often arise as with any other breed (which, by the way, have dog bite histories, according to the Canine Research Council) when an owner is irresponsible and lets their dogs run outside without supervision, and when they don’t train their dogs to be good citizens.
Antaya says that Duke’s story with him began when “one of the rescue organizations I was with in Arizona took Duke out of the county kill shelter.”
Duke could only go to a few shelters in Colorado because of the numerous Colorado breed bans. Duke landed in the Longmont Humane Society, where Antaya works as an adoption counselor. “Duke was considered a problem dog at 3 months. Because I was overwhelmed with my current fosters, he had to wait for 2 months before I could work with him.”
After Antaya’s training, “not only did he become a model dog, he became a perfect ambassador for Bully Breeds.” Antaya adopted Duke after fostering him for only 4 days. “While I have formed a bond with the many fosters I had prior to him, he met all the criteria I had for a possible addition to the family. I realized his potential very early on.”
The Longmont Humane Society takes a majority of Pit Bull mixes in Colorado. “Due to the breed bans in Denver, Aurora and Louisville, we see a majority of the Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes in the area that are being surrendered or caught by Animal Control. They, unfortunately, are the slowest to get adopted. When I watch visitors walk past the kennels, they seem to migrate to the other breeds and barely glance in the run with a Pit Bull in it. Longmont Humane offers a training class just for Pit Bulls called P.I.T.S.T.O.P. There is a lot of interest in that program from current Bully Breed owners.”
Because of dogs such as Duke, Antaya started his Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program after walking a Pit Bull “and seeing someone cross the street when they saw us coming.” Antaya also saw so many pit bulls in shelters, and realized “people have so many misconceptions about the breed. If they were educated, perhaps the adoption rate of pit bulls would go up.”
Something needed to be done, he says. “My approach is much more from an educational standpoint. I don’t preach to anyone from a soapbox. I have found that most critics of this breed have never even had a personal experience with one. Once I introduce some people to Duke and other Pit Bulls, they start to realize that these dogs are not what they perceived them to be. In addition to participating in various dog-specific events, I consider everywhere I go to be an opportunity to educate people about the breed. Sometimes it is an indirect approach, such as teaching children general dog safety and care while using a pit bull in the demonstration. I am currently working on an anti dog-fighting campaign geared towards children in high risk areas as well as a few other educational programs.”
What’s The Future For Pit Bulls?
Tough one. Antaya thinks “we are a far cry from Pit Bulls being an accepted breed as long as the media and cities who enforce breed bans continue to drive negative and incorrect information into the minds of the general public. For the states/cities who are enacting Dangerous Dog Ordinances instead of Breed Bans and the large groups of responsible owners, I have high praise for them. Hopefully this will be a growing trend and the Pit Bull will again become America’s dog.” You can find out more of Antaya’s thoughts on the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education Facebook page.