Jul 13, 2022 - News

Pit bulls in Denver account for most bites in 2022

Denver dog bites by breed and severity
Data: Denver Animal Protection; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Pit bulls are on track to account for more reported bites on people in Denver than any other dog breed for the second straight year, according to city data provided to Axios Denver.

Flashback: City voters lifted Denver's pit bull ban in November 2020 after more than 30 years.

  • Voters overrode Mayor Michael Hancock's first-ever veto blocking the measure, which had been passed by the Denver City Council.

By the numbers: Between Jan. 1 and July 8, Denver Animal Protection identified 88 bites from pit bull breeds — which under city ordinance include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers.

  • By comparison, only 27 bites were reported for Labrador retrievers and 26 for German shepherds.
  • Pit bulls also topped the list for most severe bites, those considered Level 5 offenses on the Ian Dunbar Dog Bite Scale (which goes up to Level 6, signifying death). The city reports at least 4.5% of pit bull bites were Level 5.
  • 11% of pit bull bites were on children.

The other side: Denver Animal Protection says that most bites come from unpermitted pit bulls that have not had a breed evaluation and whose victims may misreport their breed.

  • "We regularly have people bring their dog in to get a breed evaluation and learn their dog is not a pit bull," spokesperson Tammy Vigil tells Axios Denver.

What they're saying: Council member Chris Herndon — one of the city's top proponents of pit bull legalization — said he started a conversation Tuesday with Denver Animal Protection to change the way dog bite data is reported after Axios Denver shared the latest stats.

  • "We as a city can do a better job of presenting that data to the public" by individually breaking out the three breeds defined as pit bulls instead of lumping them together, he said.

Of note: As of July 8, only 169 pit bulls were licensed in Denver — a legal requirement for pit bull owners in the city.

  • Denver Parks and Rec estimates that the city is home to at least 158,000 dogs, with the most registered breeds in 2021 being the Labrador retriever, Chihuahua, German shepherd and golden retriever.

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