One City's Experience - The City of Denver
DogsBite.org - The history of the Denver pit bull ban, which was enacted in 1989, revoked in 2004 and reinstated in 2005, is best summarized in a 2005 Municipal Lawyer article titled, "One City's Experience," by Kory A. Nelson, the Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City and County of Denver. A deeper review of the pit bull ban's legal history can be found in, "Denver's Pit Bull Ordinance, A Review of Its History and Judicial Rulings," (download PDF) also by Mr. Nelson.
We gathered the vicious maulings and fatalities that played a role in the enactment of the Denver pit bull ban. Due to the closeness of the City of Aurora, which passed a Fighting Breed ban in 2005, we included attacks from Aurora as well. Though distinctly two separate cities, their histories regarding the pit bull problem overlap. Combined, the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Statistical Area has an estimated population of 2.3 million, both of which cities prohibit new pit bull terriers.
- (1986) Fernando Salazar | On October 26, 1986, 3-year old Fernando Salazar of Denver wandered into a neighbor's yard and was killed by a pit bull chained to the neighbor's carport. At the time of the attack, Gil Troncasa, the dog's owner, was watching football on T.V. His wife ultimately discovered the deadly incident.
- (1989) Rev. Wilbur Billingsley | On May 8, 1989, 59-year old Rev. Wilbur Billingsley of Denver was attacked by a pit bull in the alley behind his home. The victim suffered serious injuries with over 70 bites and two broken legs. His neighbor, Normal Cable, stopped the assault by firing a shotgun at the dog.1
October 1989, Denver Passes Pit Bull Ban
- (2003) Jennifer Brooke | On November 30, 2003, 40-year old Jennifer Brooke of Elbert County2 was killed by loose pit bulls when she went out to feed her horses. At the time, she had been armed with a baseball bat. Two other victims were bitten in this same incident before arriving officers shot and killed the dogs.
- (2004) John Doe | On February 1, 2004, a 5-year old boy was bitten in the face by a pit bull during a Super Bowl party. The attack occurred in the Montbello home of Vanessa Stephen, who was believed to be the boy's grandmother. Stephen was cited for the attack and for harboring an unregistered pit bull.3
- (2004) On April 14, 2004, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed House Bill 1279, which prohibited counties and municipalities from regulating dogs through breed-specific laws. Later that same day, the City and County of Denver announced that it would suspend active enforcement of its pit bull ban ordinance.
April 2004, Denver Pit Bull Ban Revoked
- (2004) Jane Doe | On July 13, 2004, a 7-year old girl was attacked near the Denver Tech Center by her babysitter's "mastiff-mix." The babysitter, Gretchen Robinson, had recently adopted the dog from the Denver Dumb Friends League. Arriving officers were forced to shoot the dog three times killing it.4
- (2004) Vivianna Vigil | On September 13, 2004, 3-year old Vivianna Vigil of Aurora was attacked by a pit bull who had gotten out of its owner's house through a screen door. Neighbor Kristen Brown said the pit bull had a "death grip" on the little girl. In August, the same pit bull had attacked a FedEx deliveryman.
- (2004) Gabriel Moody | On October 15, 2004, 6-year old Gabriel Moody was severely bitten in the face by a pit bull in Westminister, which is a northwest suburb of Denver, but lies in a different county. The owner of the dog, Shelley Fernandez of Arvada, had been visiting the boy's family at the time if the attack.
- (2005) John Albergotti | On February 24, 2005, Denver Police Officer John Albergotti was attacked by a pit bull while attempting to locate a homicide suspect. He supplied testimony in the April court case that authorized Denver to reinstate its pit bull ban (City and County of Denver v. State of Colorado).
May 2005, Denver Pit Bull Ban Reinstated
- (2005) Jose Simental | On September 11, 2005, Jose Simental of Aurora was working outside on his truck when four pit bulls attacked him. A friend of his fought the dogs off with a crowbar. The owner of the pit bulls had been "keeping the dogs for her kids" who couldn't house pit bulls because of Denver's ban.5
October 2005, Aurora Passes Fighting Breed Ban
- (2005) Gregg Jones Jr., | On November 2, 2005, 10-year old Gregg Jones Jr. of Aurora was brutally attacked by his mother's three pit bulls in his backyard. One of his arms was so badly injured that doctors had to amputate it. The attack fell one week after Aurora passed its Fighting Breed ban, but prior to its "effect" date.6
- (2007) Dorothy Rugg | On July 12, 2007, 63-year old Dorothy Rugg and her granddaughter, 20-year old Bobbi Mitchell of Aurora, were attacked by a family pit bull while visiting the home of Rugg's son. The dog was repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife, but this failed to stop its violent assault.7
- (2008) On November 19, 2008, Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel upheld the Aurora Fighting Breed ban. Daniel rejected arguments brought by the American Canine Foundation, a pit bull lobbying group, and Florence Vianzon Sasek including: Substantive Due Process, Equal Protection and Takings Claims.
In February 2020, there was another attempt to repeal Denver's longstanding pit bull ban. Links in this blog post have been updated to preserve the historical content in this post written in 2009.
In order of appearance: Jacob Brady, 16-months old (Fairview Beach, VA), Emily Stinnet, 4-years old (Hodgenville, KY), Amaya Hess, 4-years old (Indianapolis, IN), Annette Rojas, 8-years old (Santa Rosa, CA), Charlotte Blevins, 11-months old (Omaha, NE), Ciera Anyaso, 9-years old, (Joliet, IL), Danny Jones, 15-years old (Takoma Park, MD), Delany Williams, 6-years old (Pittsburg, CA), Destiny Campbell, 3-years old (New Castle County, PA), Ellie Lawrenson, 5-years old (Merseyside, UK), Erin Dickinson, 7-years old (Reading, PA), Gregg Jones Jr., 10-years old (Aurora, CO), Hannah Shreves, 3-years old (Fairmont, WV), Isis Krieger, 6-years old (Anchorage, AK), Jai-Quone Nelson, 7-years old (Baltimore, MD), Jayden Garrison, toddler (Baltimore, MD), Joshua Tanner Monk, 7-years old (Breckenridge, TX), Kamar Reynolds, 3-years old (Brooklyn, NY), Kasey Eyring, 7-years old (Baltimore, MD), Kiara Lynn, 19-years old (Waukegan, IL), Mattea Flanigan, child (Dothan, AL), Nicholas Scott Faibish, 12-years old, (San Francisco, CA), Nick Foley, 10-years old (Cary, IL), Rayvin Crawford, 3-years old (Indianapolis, IN), Ronnie Smithell III, 23-months old (Atkinson, PA), Scott Warren, 6-years old (Dallas, TX), Sean Bajwa, 11-years old (Surrey, CA), Seth Lovitt, 11-years old (Killeen, TX), Zachary King Jr., 7-years old (Minneapolis, MN), Zach McPhillips, 13-years old (Anula, AU) and Katie Jarman, 6-years old (Gulfport, MS)
2Elbert County is part of the Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area.
3The actual owner of the dog was a 17-year old who fled the scene, along with his pit bull, after the attack.
4This incident was included because the adoption occurred after the ban was revoked, whereby making the issue of "breed determination" moot.
5On October 24, 2005 the Aurora City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the "new" ownership 10 dog breeds with the genetic heritage of dogfighting.
6The boy's mother, Renee Muniz, was subsequently charged with felony child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and misdemeanor reckless child abuse.
7Police officers shot the dog through the home's security door, shattering the door, while the dog was still inside. Officers shot the dog once more outside killing it.
02/23/23: Denver Dog Bite Statistics by Breed and Injury Severity (2017-2019)
02/19/20: Surprise, Surprise. Denver’s Pit Bull Ban has Always Been Controversial
02/17/20: Mayor of Denver Vetoes Pit Bull Ban Repeal, Slowing the Hasty Repeal Effort