The mayor of Denver, voicing concern about the “very real risk” of injury to children, said Friday he would veto a measure passed by the City Council that would have repealed the city’s 30-year ban on pit bulls.
The mayor, Michael B. Hancock, said he had received passionate comments from thousands of residents on both sides of the issue but could not “in good conscience” sign the repeal, which passed the City Council on Monday.
“At the end of the day, I must ask whether passage of this ordinance would make our homes and neighborhoods safer or pose an increased risk to public safety,” Mr. Hancock wrote in a letter to the City Council, which he posted on his Twitter account. “I have concluded that it would pose an increased risk.”
Pit bulls were banned in the city and county of Denver in August 1989, after what Mr. Hancock said were several fatal attacks, including one that he said killed a 2-year-old.
Mr. Hancock said he remained concerned that the proposed repeal does not “fully address the very real risk to severe injury that can result from attacks from these particular dog breeds, especially should they happen to a child.”
“The reality is that irresponsible pet owners continue to be a problem,” he wrote, “and it is the irresponsible owners and their dogs I must consider in evaluating the overall impact of this ordinance.”
The measure passed the City Council on a 7-to-4 vote, two fewer than the nine required to override a mayoral veto. Under the proposal, owners would have been required to apply for a breed-restricted license and register their pit bull with Denver Animal Protection.
Councilman Christopher Herndon, who sponsored the proposal, said that if the override were to fail on Tuesday, he would seek to have the ban repealed on the November ballot.
“I’m disappointed the mayor is choosing to disregard the science on the issue of breed-specific legislation,” Mr. Herndon said in a statement. “Research tells us breed-specific legislation is ineffective at keeping communities safe and experts in the field — from the local level to the national level — agree it is no longer best practice.”
Pit bulls have long been maligned as attack dogs and fighters too hostile to live in proximity to humans. According to National Pit Bull Victim Awareness, a campaign to protect the victims of pit bull attacks, more than 900 cities in the United States have legislation related specifically to dog breeds.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has stated, though, that it was not aware of evidence that breed-specific laws made communities safer for humans or their pets.
Dogs categorized as “pit bulls” most often include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and other mixed breeds.
Laura M. Holson contributed reporting.