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Dogs win in Denver on election day

While some election results around the country are still undecided, the voters have spoken in Denver, Colorado. Yesterday, in a resounding statement against breed discrimination, Denver voters struck down the 30-year pit bull ban, voting for Measure 2J by an overwhelming majority. What’s even more significant, however, is that this exact language was in a bill that passed the city council successfully months ago and was on the desk of Denver’s mayor, and he chose to veto it. But now, the citizens have spoken, and the will of the people will be law.

For the past three decades, the city of Denver has been the “poster child” for breed-discriminatory laws targeting pit bull terriers, and it has been a dangerous place to be for any stout, block-headed dog resembling a pit bull. Residents with dogs fitting that description sought homes in neighborhoods outside the city to keep their pets safe; visitors with pit bulls avoided traveling through, fearing that their dogs would be confiscated. And for a long time, it seemed like that was just the way it was going to be and nothing would ever change.

But change does happen. Sometimes it comes at the speed of light, usually when we’re not ready for it. Other times, it comes painfully slowly when we’re in desperate need of it. That’s why those of us who have been working in animal welfare for a while have learned to embrace the often-imperfect path of progress and keep moving forward, no matter what.

We’re a nation of pet lovers and problem solvers. For some problems, the solutions we find come crashing onto the sand in big, beautiful waves of change. For others, it’s a matter of closely watching the tides and taking advantage of every little opportunity to creep closer and closer to shore.

In the last two years alone, more than 40 cities have lifted breed bans without restriction. These cities finally realized that breed-discriminatory legislation fails to enhance public safety, interferes with property owners’ rights and is a waste of taxpayer dollars when it comes to trying to enforce those laws.

A diverse group of expert organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the American Bar Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, all reject breed-based laws and support breed-neutral ones that focus on the behavior of the individual dog and owner. Additionally, the International Municipal Lawyers Association recently published an updated model ordinance, rejecting their former breed-based policy in favor of a breed-neutral one.

The path of progress is an imperfect one, but that hasn’t stopped us yet. And I can’t imagine it’s going to stop the people of Denver from eventually ushering in a bright future focused on responsible pet ownership and effective public safety policies, neither of which have anything to do with a dog’s breed or physical appearance.

Your move, Prince George’s County

While not as well-known as the Denver law, a similar type of breed ban exists in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In fact, this massive county, located right outside of Washington, D.C., has a population that’s about 50% larger than Denver’s and a long, tragic history of killing innocent pets.

Since the ban went into effect more than two decades ago, the county has seized and killed thousands of dogs — not for any dangerous behavior or anything they did, but because of this archaic law. That’s thousands of families who have been shattered and untold thousands of friendly dogs who could have found homes but didn’t because of the ban. It’s also worth noting the enforcement costs to the county: millions of taxpayer dollars over the years.

These types of discriminatory laws are falling all over the country and we're hoping that Prince George's County follows suit. With the vote in Denver to end breed discrimination, Prince George's County is now the second-largest community with a breed-discriminatory law (Miami-Dade County being the largest). But we're hopeful that this could be changing soon. Best Friends is working in Maryland with a coalition of local and national advocates to fight to repeal the decades-old ban. That effort is going to be challenging, but we're committed to it, we're working with organizations with a shared vision, and we know that it's doable.

Make your voice heard

The takeaway from Denver is this: If you don’t use your voice and tell your city council, county commissioner and mayor what needs to change to keep pets safe in your community, change will never come.

Many of us have new mayors and new elected officials. The time is now to introduce yourself to your elected officials. Invite them for a tour of your local shelter or to meet virtually with your local rescue group. Educate them on the protections that pets need where you live.

Is there a policy preventing pets from finding homes in your community? Join our team of local advocates fighting for sustainable changes that save lives. The 2025 Action Team is a community-driven, grassroots movement to help save more cats and dogs (of all types) across the country. Sign up today for access to exclusive trainings and pet-advocacy resources.

Together, we can Save Them All.

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Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society