Breed-Specific Legislation: State and Municipal Laws
January 16, 2014 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Can someone explain to me how anti-BSL legislation and BSL can apparently coexist (example inside), and tell me how to find out whether or not BSL is in place, definitively?

As someone who will probably be moving to follow a job, and someone who loves and wants to own a pit bull, I've been looking up areas where it is safe to own one of these amazing dogs. However, the laws seem a bit hard to follow.

The state of Colorado seems to have banned BSL: 18-9-204.5. Unlawful ownership of dangerous dogs.
(5) (a) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a municipality from adopting any rule or law for the control of dangerous dogs; except that any such rule or law shall not regulate dangerous dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.

Yet, despite this, Denver and Aurora (and maybe others) still have breed-specific legislation in place. How is this so? As a secondary question, if state laws don't actually do what they claim to do, how do I know definitively whether BSL is in place in a given city/county/whatever?
posted by Urban Winter to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to this, Denver maintains it has "home rule authority" that exempts it from Colorado's state-wide ban of these bans. It looks like it was taken to court, and Denver won. There are a lot of details about the trial in the paper.

I'd imagine that other cities in Colorado have managed to do similar things as Denver.
posted by brainmouse at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2014

Most Colorado cities and counties post their ordinances on their websites, so you can check there. If you're looking to live in Denver, there are a couple of Arapahoe County exclaves where Denver city ordinances aren't applicable, and they might be worth looking into.
posted by asperity at 9:51 AM on January 16, 2014

There are also loopholes if you have mixes that could have plausibility as not-pit. I see TONS of pit-esque dogs around. Including my upstairs neighbor dog that is pit mix, but they claim lab/something.

If you are wanting to rent, even if a city/county has no BSL, apartments often have breed restrictions. If you are wanting to buy, confirm with HOA to make sure they don't have any.

(Also if you come visit, let us know and we'll have a meetup)
posted by HermitDog at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're going to rent, you might also want to check out Craigslist in the city you're looking at, because landlords often will have breed or size restrictions. I live in San Francisco and it's hard to find a place that accepts dogs, let alone Pits.
posted by radioamy at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2014

The relationship between state and local (county or city) laws is incredibly complex, and varies from state to state. For example, the state law you link to includes very specific language about county and municipality laws, and is slightly different for each, which suggests that the relationship between the state and the local level might vary by which kind of local level it is. Also, while the state law does say the local levels can't pass BSL laws, the state law doesn't seem to specifically preempt local laws -- it seems like one would logically imply the other, but in my experience it does not in actual practice work that way. IANAL, but I've done research in state preemption in another topic area.

All of this is to say that I don't think you're going to be able to wade through this yourself. Have you contacted a pit-bull rescue in Colorado to ask for their guidance? They probably have a LOT of local knowledge about these laws, and might also be able to give you some guidance about which localities are on the verge of adopting BSL in the future, which is just as important as knowing which have BSL now.
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2014

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