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In Colorado, dogs are accorded qualified property status, and are, thus, subject to the proper exercise of police power for the protection of the public's health, safety, and welfare.
The plaintiffs, dog owners and related canine and humane associations, filed a complaint in the Denver District Court against the defendant, City and County of Denver (city), seeking both a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of the "Pit Bulls Prohibited" ordinance, Denver, Colo., Rev. Mun. Code § 8-55 (1989), and injunctive relief to prevent enforcement. The dog owners also requested damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988) and attorneys' fees and costs. The District Court, City and County of Denver (Colorado) construed the ordinance and held it constitutional. Plaintiffs appealed.
Was the "Pit Bulls Prohibited" ordinance, Denver, Colo., Rev. Mun. Code § 8-55 (1989) unconstitutional?
The court held that the ordinance did not violate procedural due process, because: 1) the trial court's modification, which placed the burden upon the city to show that a breed in dispute was a pit bull, was proper; 2) the city's burden of proof in civil or regulatory proceedings under the ordinance was the preponderance of the evidence standard, and; 3) in criminal proceedings, the city was required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The ordinance did not violate substantive due process, even though it: 1) permitted establishment of the dog's breed by expert and non-scientific evidence, and; 2) did not include all violent breeds. The ordinance was not vague, because the term "pit bull" was not imprecise and AKC and UKC standards were readily ascertainable. The ordinance did not violate equal protection because: 1) it bore a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest, and 2) the trial court's modification, eliminating the distinction between previously licensed and previously unlicensed owners, was proper. The ordinance was not a taking because pit bulls could have been kept as long as they were licensed, and other minimum standards met.