Organization: University of Denver
Investigator(s): Kevin Morris, Sloane Hawes, Devrim Ikizler, Justin Marceau, Katy Loughney and Philip Tedeschi
Grant Amount: $55,510
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete
The University of Denver and Institute for Human-Animal Connection examined how the City and County of Denver's Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) ordinance, Section 8-55, introduced in 1989, has impacted the economic and social systems of the Denver community. The breed ban cost the city millions of dollars to implement and defend but resulted only in inconclusive public safety outcomes. Moreover, the ban has disproportionately affected individuals in underserved communities.
To conduct a Social-Environmental Economic Impact Assessment (SEEIA) to evaluate how the City and County of Denver's BSL policy has impacted the economic and social systems of the Denver community.
This study was conducted by a multidisciplinary team that included experts in the fields of economics, business, social work, law, and research design. The team integrated research-based evidence, local data and the knowledge of stakeholders, particularly members of the affected communities.
Existing research shows that visually-based evaluation processes commonly used by animal shelters to assess the breed and behavior can be erroneous. A growing body of evidence shows that companion animals can act as social bridges between people and community, and that BSL appears to disproportionately affect individuals in underserved communities. While BSL is primarily an intervention for the presence of dangerous dogs in communities, policy makers may wish to consider the additional implications of enforcing BSL in underserved communities.
BSL has been in place in the City and County of Denver for over three decades, which presented challenges to measuring economic impact, including changes in data collection practices, variable definitions and other mitigating factors. The limited awareness of a typical resident around the true costs of enforcing such a policy may demonstrate the need for a more detailed assessment.
The breed-ban's prioritization of human public safety at the expense of the welfare of a specific breed of dog, particularly without a substantial impact on the former, represents a diversion from the components that contribute to a Humane Community. Furthermore, the decreasing number of 8-55 "holds" may indicate that the need for BSL is diminishing.
In conclusion, the authors recommend alternatives to BSL that will address the root causes of actual dog aggression, including: building the City and County of Denver's capacity to support residents in caring for their pets by identifying and expanding pet support infrastructure such as affordable and accessible veterinary and behavior services; implementing robust non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws that include opportunities for early pet education and intervention with at-risk individuals; and implementing evidence-based interventions for challenges to social cohesion and interpersonal and interspecies violence.
- Hawes, S.M., Ikizler, D., Loughney, K., Temple Barnes, A., Marceau, J., Tedeschi, P. and Morris, K.N. (2020). A quantitative study of Denver's Breed-Specific Legislation. Animal Law Review,26(2). 195-271.