WESTMINSTER, Colo. — It is already a law in Denver, Aurora and a handful of other Colorado cities. Now, a couple in Westminster are pushing for a pit bull ban there too.
For 21 years, John Flanagan has lived down the street from Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park.
He said he used to take his dogs there before it was even a dog park. Now, the 420-acre off-leash open space is one of the most popular dog areas on the Front Range.
“They have such a huge amount of people visiting that Westminster Hills Dog Park now that there’s people parking on the street,” Flanagan said.
In December, he said he took two of his three dogs to go play. But only one of them came home.
“I was fumbling with one of those green bags that you try to pull out,” he said. “And the next thing I know, people are yelling saying ‘Let him go, let him go, let him go.’ And this pit bull has got him.”
They rushed Biki, their 9-year-old Yorkie-Poo, to a veterinarian, but it was too late.
“That pit bull killed him instantly. He was dead,” Flanagan said.
While Flanagan said he is positive the other dog was a pit bull, no one knows for sure.
“Nobody called 911 when they saw what happened. And nobody has come forward. No witnesses have come forward,” Flanagan’s wife Barb Stephen said.
The posted rules at the park specifically prohibit “aggressive dogs” from entering the area. However, Westminster does not specifically ban pit bulls from city limits.
Flanagan said he is working to change that. He has vowed to lobby at every Westminster City Council meeting until members consider tightening the laws on aggressive dogs.
“What is that pivotal tipping point where somebody says, that body count is unacceptable. Is it one dog? Is it five dogs?” he said.
Castle Rock is considering lifting its decades-old ban on pit bulls. City leaders believe the current law is outdated, too difficult to enforce and is unfair to dogs that look like pit bulls.
Instead, the city is considering moving toward a two-tiered system that would hold each individual dog accountable for its own behavior instead of breed-specific legislation.
Whether Westminster adopts an all-out ban or a watered-down version, Flanagan said he hopes there is some change in the future so no more dogs end up like Biki.
“If this never happens again, yeah, we’ll be OK with that,” Flanagan said.
According to the City of Westminster’s Department of Animal Management, “In the City of Westminster, there is not any breed specific laws in place. Westminster has adopted rules designed to control dangerous and vicious animals in the city. The city opted for this control method rather than a ban on specific breeds because research shows the problem more influenced by owner negligence then breed.”
The city Council does not have any bills that would change its laws regarding aggressive dogs.