Pit bulls: Denver's decision to allow their use as service dogs won't stop lawsuit, attorney says

Thumbnail image for pit bull puppy.jpg
Denver's quiet policy change to allow pit bulls to be used as service dogs might seem to end a class-action lawsuit demanding just such a change.

But no: Jennifer Edwards, the Animal Law Center attorney behind the court action, says the fight will go on due to several factors, including a policy that strikes her as allowing spying on pit bull owners.

Denver made no public announcement about the switch, based on an order by Doug Kelley, director of the city's Animal Care and Control division. His move marks the first time officials have blinked in the twenty-plus years since its pit bull ban was put in place. So how did Edwards find out about it?

jennifer reba edwards.jpg
Jennifer Edwards.
"We filed our amended complaint on March 25," she notes, "and this apparently happened on April 5. Then, last week, they filed their motion to dismiss, and we started working on our response Thursday -- and while drafting it, we realized they'd made a policy and procedure change.

"We were taken by surprise," she concedes. "We'd heard nothing from the media about it, nothing from City Council, nothing from the City Attorney's office."

Edwards can only speculate why the city didn't trumpet the service-dog exception. "I think they should be proud they're taking a step in the right direction," she maintains. "If they saw the writing on the wall as a result of the lawsuit, and they realized they needed to make a change, they should admit it."

Nonetheless, Edwards believes there are plenty of outstanding issues raised in the lawsuit that haven't been addressed by Kelley's maneuver. After all, she argues, the plaintiffs, who weren't allowed to use pit bulls as service animals, suffered damages due to Denver's longstanding policy, and they deserve compensation. Also, "this only addresses Animal Control. It doesn't address the police department or any other agency. They haven't changed the law, they just changed the policy -- and we seek an injunction to change their policy and procedure permanently. This needs to be an umbrella law that covers all of Denver."

And then there's the language of the policy itself, which requires authorities to "verify or disaffirm an owner, keeper, or possessor's claim that their pit bull is qualified as a service animal." Animal Control can do so via an investigation into the dog's past behavior, its ability to "tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors," as well as if it can "ignore food on the floor or dropped in the dog's vicinity while working outside the home."

the carcass of a young pit bull at denver animal shelter in 2006.jpg
A 2006 photo of pit bulls killed under Denver's ban of the breed.
Edwards's take? "It almost seems to initiate some kind of spy activity," she says. "They're drawing some very subjective conclusions about whether or not the animal is socialized. And I'm not sure animal-control officers, who've proven time and again they can't even identify the breed of a dog 100 percent of the time, are qualified to determine if a dog is actually a service dog. They don't have the training, education or experience to determine that, and I don't think it falls under the guidelines of ADA" -- the Americans With Disabilities Act, which allows any breed to be used as a service dog, in contradiction to Denver's previous rules and regs.

In Edwards's view, the new approach, which only applies to pit bulls, also "encroaches on the privacy of the owners. I don't know how animal control officers could get this information other than by spying on people or secretly throwing food in front of their service animals."

What's next? Edwards says her team has until Wednesday to answer the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, "but we may seek a little bit of additional time, now that we know about this policy change." In the coming weeks, though, "we'll respond to the motion -- and then it's up to the courts."

Page down to read the policy-change document.

My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
R. A. Capell
R. A. Capell

There may be something to learn from this case too

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

CMPD and THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA both due to a lack of proper supervision have not been trained properely and did not maintaine training of CMPD and the ADA otherwise these COLOR of LAW violations would not have happened and no one would be in Federal Court Right now because of violating 42:12101 

http://www.law.cornell.edu/usc... See FBI site here 

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/in...

3:2010cv00355

Is a State immune from suit under the ADA? No. A State is not immune from an action in Federal court for violations of the ADA.

http://www.ada.gov/taman2.html...

R. A. Capell
R. A. Capell

 II-1.4200 Other Federal and State laws. Title II does not disturb other Federal laws or any State laws that provide protection for individuals with disabilities at a level greater or equal to that provided by the ADA. It does, however, prevail over any conflicting State laws.

See More Here

http://www.ada.gov/taman2.html...

State Law Provides Greater Protection then these Cities...

R. A. Capell
R. A. Capell

 "It appears that Kelly's behind-the-scenes policy change is an effort to shield elected officials from having to vote on the pit bull issue while at the same time making the city right with the ADA and potential future litigation."

Yeah you wouldn't want to commit Section 1983, Section 1985 and Section 1986 violations like Aurora has already done.

Kenchristensen2
Kenchristensen2

This is genocide... period!!!! Bigotry, racist, and flat out MURDER!!!! Come near mine, see what happens.

R. A. Capell
R. A. Capell

There needs to be a "Color of Law" investigation. Sounds like there is a serious lack of training.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...