Sunday, December 12, 2010

Court case on pit bull ban as service dogs

Disabled veterans await court case on cities' ban on pit bulls as service dogs
By Kyle Glazier The Denver Post 12/11/2010

A U.S. District Court judge will decide whether Denver and Aurora must allow disabled people to use pit bulls as service animals.

Animal Law Center spokesman Kurt Holzberlein said the Wheat Ridge-based law firm represents three plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the cities of Denver and Aurora, which have banned the breed.

The suit contends that owners of pit bulls classified as service animals must be allowed to keep their dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The plaintiffs filed in federal court in March.

Holzberlein said one plaintiff is from Denver, and another is from Aurora. The third is a Washington state resident who was planning to travel to Denver with a pit bull.

The Denver Council voted Dec. 6 against granting an exception to the city's ban for pit bulls classified as service animals.

Animal Law Center attorney Jennifer Edwards said the suit seeks financial damages against both cities, with the ultimate goal of allowing pit bulls classified as service animals within city limits.

"This isn't about overturning the ban. It's about getting Denver into compliance with the ADA," Edwards said.

She said two of her clients are veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who use pit bulls as service dogs: Vietnam veteran Allen Grider of Aurora and Persian Gulf War veteran Glenn Belcher of Denver.

Edwards said her firm filed for a stay in proceedings because Aurora filed a motion to disqualify the Animal Law Center as counsel on the grounds that firm members are necessary witnesses.

Edwards said this would leave her clients without representation because they cannot afford to hire another firm.

"We are in hurry up and wait mode," Holzberlein said of the current status of the case.

Aurora City Attorney Charles Rich ardson said the litigation against Aurora hinges on whether the city reached a "reasonable" accommodation for Grider, as the ADA requires. Richardson said the case could take some time.

"It's moving slowly through the federal court system, just like every case," he said.

Kyle Glazier: 303-954-1638 or

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