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Are Pitbulls Illegal In Colorado? State Law & Alternatives

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By Nicole Cosgrove

pitbull dog standing outdoor

Because of the history of Pitbulls, having been originally bred for bullbaiting and other blood sports and having been regularly featured in the list of dog breeds most often cited in dog bite incidents, the Pitbull and pitbull-type breeds are one breed most likely to be hit with a ban.

Although the state of Colorado does not ban Pitbulls, several of the state’s cities do prohibit their ownership. Until recently, this included the city of Denver, but in 2021, new legislation was passed that will eventually remove the ban on owning this breed in the city. For now, however, Pitbull owners in Denver must get a Breed Restricted Permit which requires an application and the payment of an application fee. This applies to visitors that bring their Pitbull with them, as well as residents of the city.

Other Colorado cities that ban the breed include Aurora, Commerce City, Fort Lupton, Lone Tree, Louisville, and the Town of Simla. In all cases, visitors and residents are advised to check local laws before getting a Pitbull or visiting with one. If the dog is prohibited and authorities determine that a dog is one of this breed, they can remove and potentially destroy the breed while also serving the owner with a fine and potentially a harsher punishment.

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About Pitbulls

Pitbulls were originally bred for bullbaiting, a horrendous sport that saw several dogs pitted against a bull, to wear the bull down until it collapsed or died. The dogs were bred to be strong and athletic, but they also needed to be good with their human handlers. When the sport was banned, the Pitbull was used for rat baiting, which saw dogs take on multiple rats to kill them as quickly as possible. They also fought with one another. Their reputation as fierce fighters meant that Pitbulls were used for protection, were used in organized crime, and continued to be used in underground dog fighting events.

Especially during the late 20th Century, the breed regularly topped the list of dog breeds that were most commonly responsible for fatal dog bites and dog attacks. Although this was through no fault of the dogs themselves, the prevalence of their name on dog bite lists, saw the Pitbull being banned in many countries.

Pitbulls in Colorado

a merle pitbull looking at it's owner
Image Credit: Brandon Crawford, Shutterstock

The breed has not been banned by federal law in the US, but states and cities can prohibit their ownership. The Pitbull is not banned by the state of Colorado. However, it is a banned breed in several cities and although the laws are changing, this includes Denver.

Denver Law Changes

The Pitbull was banned in Denver in 1989, following a string of fatal dog attacks and dog bites that involved Pitbull breeds. However, in 2021, steps were made to change the laws.

Under current law, owners of Pitbulls in Colorado can apply for a Breed Restricted Permit. The application is fairly easy. It requires the provision of owner details, as well as contact details for two other parties that will be contacted if the dog is involved in a bite attack. The owner must also provide microchip details and proof that the dog has been neutered.

Whether you are planning to travel to Colorado with a Pitbull, or you want to buy one and currently live in Colorado, you should do your own research. Contact the local authorities if in any doubt because if the breed is banned and authorities believe your dog is a Pitbull breed, they have the power to take the dog away. It may potentially be euthanized, as a result, and you could face a hefty fine and other possible penalties.

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Top 3 Alternative Breeds to Pitbulls

Pitbulls are known for being loving with their family, very loyal, strong, and athletic. Other breeds fill these criteria but are not prohibited, which means that owning them is legal throughout the country. Some alternative breeds include:

1. Bull Terriers

white american pitbull terrier in autumn forest
Image Credit: stockfoto, Shutterstock

The Bull Terrier has a very distinctive look. It is energetic and playful as well as strong. Because it is part of the terrier group, you should expect a dog that likes to play. This can make training quite a challenge, but it will be easier if you can turn training sessions into playtime.

2. Mastiffs

brown bullmastiff dog on grass
Image Credit: Julissa Helmuth, Pexels

There are, in fact, many types of mastiffs with breeds hailing from all around the world. Most of them are large to giant breeds and are very strong. Their size means that they may not need as much exercise as breeds like the Bull Terrier or the Staffie but they can be very protective and they will form a close bond with their humans.

3. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

staffordshire bull terrier stretching
Image Credit: Melounix, Shutterstock

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is arguably the breed that comes closest to the Pitbull, in terms of its physical appearance. If you’re looking for a dog that looks like a Pitbull, this is a good thing, but do bear in mind that most banned dog laws are based on the physical appearance of a dog, and if your dog shares certain physical characteristics with the Pitbull, it may still be seized. This can include Staffies, in some cases.

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The Pitbull is a loving family dog that forms a close attachment to its human owners. Unfortunately, and primarily because of the nefarious actions of some unscrupulous owners, the breed also has a reputation for being fierce and responsible for a lot of fatal and damaging dog attacks. This has resulted in the breed being banned in some countries, as well as in some states and cities across the US.

Even though the breed is not banned in most of Colorado, it is banned in several cities in the State, although recent rule changes in Denver mean that it is possible to own this breed in the state capital. The rules may be further relaxed in the coming years, and other Colorado cities may also follow suit. However, you should always check with local authorities in your area to ensure that you don’t fall foul of current laws restricting certain dog breeds or types of dog breeds.


Featured Image Credit: Sophia Tr, Shutterstock

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