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
2 months 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
2 months 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
1 month 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
2 months 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
2 months 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
2 months ago

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

Bob
Bob
2 months ago

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

Jason B
Jason B
1 month ago

Basically, an ambulance chaser is trying to get some publicity for his ’21 campaign and great dogs (and their owners) are the unfortunate victims of his silly game. Well, good luck with that – public perception of “pitbulls” has changed dramatically over the last 3-5 years – just look at the landslide 66% vote in Denver to repeal the ban. Furthermore, the city council has clear and full constitutional authority to enact or repeal any ordinance, regardless of how or why it was originally enacted. The people elect city council members to make these decisions, and that’s what occurred here – clear and simple. The lawsuit has no grounds and will be easily dismissed. As an 8-year Aurora citizen and a responsible dog owner, I find the lawsuit to be a politically motivated waste of public resources. If you run, I will be voting against you, Matt — and given the results of the ballot measure to end the ban in Denver, so will the majority of Aurora voters. Good luck to you!

Jacob A
Jacob A
1 month ago

Regardless of opinions about the many different breeds and mixed breeds that can be assigned the blanket label of “pit bull”; the Aurora City Council was fully within their right to repeal the ban:

  1. The ban was originally enacted in 2005 by the city council (and not by a “binding” vote as the lawsuit argues).
  2. The vote in 2014 was clearly advisory in nature (and not binding as the lawsuit argues).
  3. Per #1 and #2 above, the city council was legally within their right to repeal the ban by a city council action (as authorized by the Aurora home rule City Charter) per the city council’s majority 7-3 vote to repeal the ordinance earlier this year.

While the lawsuit attempts (but fails) to rewrite the legal standing of the original ordinance (which was enacted by a city council action and not by a vote), its motivation appears to be purely political in nature and as such, the lawsuit should easily be dismissed.

Erin
Erin
14 days ago

Welp everyone knows one nice pit but let’s face it pitbulls are problematic. You can wail and stomp your feet put whatever flower crown and fairy wings you want, hell even spread the lie that they used to be “nanny dogs” but they are problematic. Bite stats don’t lie and the rebuffs of “hurr chihuahuas are the meanest dog I’ve ever met” doesn’t hold up because that dog can’t rip your face off.
This will continue to be a problem until people figure it out.