Aurora man sues city over city council’s decision to reverse pit bull ban

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AURORA | An Aurora man made good on a promise to sue the city he calls home last week over the Aurora City Council’s recent decision to nix a long-standing ban on pit bull ownership.

Matt Snider filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Aurora in Arapahoe County District Court Thursday, nearly six months after he penned a letter to city officials asking them to reverse their repeal of a local law that banned residents from keeping American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers as pets.

Council members in January voted 7-3 to rescind the ban, which was first added to city code via ordinance in 2005.

Snider, a Democrat who ran for a state house seat in 2016 and a position on the Cherry Creek School District’s Board of education a year later, has repeatedly said that the lawsuit is unrelated to the substance of the dog ban repeal. He said he takes issue with city lawmakers unilaterally reversing a local rule that Aurora voters upheld via ballot question in 2014.

Nearly two thirds of the local electorate voters opted to support the ban at the polls seven years ago.

“I want to emphasize that my lawsuit has nothing to do with dogs per se, pit bulls or otherwise. I love dogs,” Snider, who is a legal investigator for a law firm in Lakewood, wrote in an email. “But it has absolutely everything to do with the city council ignoring the law within the city’s own charter and its own procedures to overturn the overwhelming results of a direct vote of the people of Aurora on the pit bull issue. I would be just as upset if the city council did this on any other issue.”

Former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is representing Snider in court, records show. The Greenwood Village-based elections attorney has been a prominent figure in Republican politics for nearly two decades.

In his 17-page complaint, Gessler asked an Arapahoe County judge to void the city council’s recent ordinance overriding the dog ban and reinstate the original code passed 16 years ago.

In 2009, an appeals court upheld the city’s dog breed ban after the American Canine Foundation challenged it, saying that officials “had a legitimate purpose in enacting (a) pit bull and restricted breed ban ordinance,” according to city documents.

Council tweaked the original 2005 language six years after it was passed to allow more breeds that were originally outlawed in the city. Pit bulls remained prohibited.

Snider said that allowing council members to unilaterally axe codes that were previously upheld by the electorate could lead to more aggressive action from the dais in the future.

“I’m very surprised a bigger stink wasn’t made over this,” Snider said of the city council’s recent decision. “ … Votes of the people are sacrosanct to me, regardless of the issue. Maybe I’m too idealistic or too much of a Boy Scout but if the City Council can get away with this, then they will perceive they can do this with impunity on any other issue, perhaps even overturning elections for mayor or city council members.”

In his letter sent to city attorneys earlier this year, Snider asked to negotiate with officials on the ban reversal before it formally took effect at the end of February, threatening litigation if his request was spurned.

“Negotiations did not take place,” Snider told The Sentinel last week. “The city council and the city attorney ignored me.

A spokesperson for the city declined to comment on the suit Friday afternoon, saying city attorneys had yet to be formally served with the complaint.

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DICK MOORE
12 days ago

Thank you, Matt Snider, for not letting this pit bull situation die. Pit Bulls and a City Council that basically overturns a vote of the people make Aurora a less safe place to live and how our City Council has lost it’s ability to lead. Hopefully the citizens of Aurora will pay the Council back this November and vote them out of office.

Sandra Chlubna
Sandra Chlubna
12 days ago

Bans have long been shown to be expensive, hard/impossible to enforce and punishes good dogs and owners more that bad ones. The repeal of BSL was long overdue: and kudos to the city of Aurora.

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Harve Morgan
Harve Morgan
9 days ago
Reply to  Sandra Chlubna

U.S. fatal pit bull attacks have surpassed 400 since 1998; the last year the CDC studied fatal dog attack data by breed. In the last 8-year period of the CDC study (1991 to 1998), pit bulls averaged 2.9 deaths per year. From 2013 to 2020, the most recent 8-year period, pit bulls averaged 28.4 deaths per year, an increase of over 850%.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
11 days ago

Personally I don’t like Pit Bulls, I find them emblematic of the lowest factor of humanity, those people who enjoy making others uncomfortable. Probably should call them Pit Bullies. I know there are people out there who adore their dog and that’s okay , I don’t. But is it about the law which the city never enforced anyway, unless it was directly involved or the actions of our often reprehensible political hacks who rule out lives, or at least think they do….

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
11 days ago

I agree with the premise of this lawsuit. An elected body should not be able to overturn a decision made by the citizens.

Bob
Bob
11 days ago

“city lawmakers unilaterally reversing”? Huh What is this? Does the Sentinel watch the meetings?

Bob
Bob
11 days ago

So much for a “home rule city” where the voters should maintain control of what laws they want!