Hearing Officer Rejects Denver’s Claim Dexter is a Pit Bull

Denver Kills DogsKevin O’Connell has successfully challenged the determination by Denver’s Animal Control that his dog, Dexter, is a pit bull mix and thus banned from the city.

Denver’s ordinance actually bans "any dog that is an APBT, AST, and SBT"; "any dog displaying the majority of the physical traits of" any one or more of these breeds or  "any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established" by the AKC or UKC for any of these breeds. Sec. 8-55.

Kevin O’Connell does not live in Denver. Dexter was actually at his pet sitter’s home in Denver when officers in the neighborhood for another reason, spotted him and simply confiscated him.  

Mr. O’Connell was represented at the hearing where he challenged the determination to ban Dexter by attorneys Wayne Swearingen and Jennifer Reba Edwards.

In Denver a 3 person "pit bull evaluation team" determines if a dog is banned under the ordinance. Each team member marks various characteristics listed on a pit bull evaluation form each believes the dog has that is consistent with a pit bull.  The form is not dispositive and apparently the ultimate determination is left up to the team. Attached for downloading at the end of this article is an example of a pit bull evaluation filled out by the team. This is not the evaluation done on Dexter.

At Dexter’s hearing Christine Lederhos, a veterinary technician, testified she is a member of Denver’s pit bull evaluation team. She said she thinks Dexter is a "pit bull mix". She testified he has a "broad chest, body size, massive head, medium and compact feet, well-defined thighs and overall muscularity" as well as "straight legs and scissored teeth".

Animal Control Investigator Eugene Lopez, also a member of the team and who refused to answer questions about any employment prior to this job of pit bull evaluator for Denver, said he does not know if his evaluation of Dexter as a pit bull is accurate or if any of the evaluations are accurate.

Animal Control Investigator Richard Mouton, the third member of the pit bull evaluation team, could not recall the characteristics of a pit bull breed.  He said he reviews the breed standards before he evaluates the dogs.

Mr. O’Connell presented evidence that 4 veterinarians and UKC Judge Sonja J. Ostrom do not believe Dexter is a pit bull mix. She and 3 veterinarians are of the opinion he is a boxer mix, and the other veterinarian said Dexter is a mastiff mix.  Former AKC Judge Helen James and veterinary technician and show dog expert Linda Hart appeared at the hearing and testified Dexter is a boxer mix.

Hearing Officer Ann H. Cisneros found Mr. O’Connell presented stronger, "more detailed evidence" and the city had not sustained its burden of proof. Ms. Cisneros found that while Dexter may have some pit bull traits, he does not "display[]  the majority of the physical traits of" those breeds or "exhibit[] those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established" by the AKC or UKC for any of the pit bull breeds.

Dexter will live and be able to continue to visit his pet sitter in Denver.  More dog owners plan to challenge determinations by the pit bull evaluation team that their dogs are pit bulls within the meaning of the ordinance.

One of Mr. O’Connell’s attorneys, Jennifer Reba Edwards, commented, "I believe this to be a ban that does not prohibit pit bulls, but one that prohibits, Boxers, Mastiffs, or any other dog who was born with a broad head and well-developed musculature. The "experts" Denver has to determine and identify breeds have no business doing so. I am saddened to think of how many dogs were wrongfully euthanized as a result of this discriminatory and arbitrary ban. Why would we do such a terrible thing to such a beautiful creature, especially the one we have designated as our best friend?"  

Go here for a look at how this ban became law and earlier legal challenges.

Read more about pending litigation to end Denver’s pit bull ban. 

Go here for a recent analysis by Karen Delise of the National Canine Research Council of the Denver pit bull ban.

Dog Breed Specific Legislation, The Cost to People, Pets and Veterinarians, and the Damage to the Human-Animal Bond

Shelter Medicine: A Comparison of Visual and DNA Identification of Breeds of Dogs

2 thoughts on “Hearing Officer Rejects Denver’s Claim Dexter is a Pit Bull”

  1. Challenge those identifications folks.
    This ban needs to end.
    I note that the evaluation forms ask NOTHING about the behavior of the dog.

    Denver time to look elsewhere and may I suggest Calgary,Alberta,Canada.
    Spend your money bringing Bill Bruce to Denver to explain how to properly run a RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP PROGRAM.

    Denver officials you are being mocked around the World even by Ontario,Canada and their Officials are every bit as foolish and barbaric as Denver.


  2. Dexter`s Attorney seeking costs.

    “…. Edwards says that her firm isn’t done with Dexter just yet. “Our client had to pay impoundment fees for ten days, attorney fees, and the money for experts,” she notes, “so we’re going to try to recoup all that, and it could conceivably be another day in court for that.””


Comments are closed.