By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – In November 2020, Denver voters overwhelmingly chose to repeal the city’s pit bull ban. Breed advocates are thrilled, and shelters look forward to adopting out these dogs to city residents.

(credit: Getty Images)

The responsibility is on the owner, but some families aren’t convinced every owner will be responsible.

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“My daughter called me, crying hysterically. She said, ‘Mom they killed Walter!’ I said, ‘What do you mean they killed Walter? Who killed Walter?’” said Veronda Smith.

Last month, two, unleashed pit bulls saw Veronda Smith’s terrier mix, Walter, tethered in the front yard. Walter was only alone for a few minutes, while Smith’s husband stepped inside.

“He saw the dogs and when they saw him, they started running down the street. By that time, it was too late to save Walter,” said Smith.

The Smith family is not anti-pit bull. After volunteering at an animal shelter, their daughter became an advocate for the breed. Smith’s husband even had one, until the City and County of Denver told him he couldn’t.

“He owned a pit bull when he was younger, that he actually had to give up when he was a teenager, because the pit bull ban had been put in place,” said Smith.

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(credit: Veronda Smith)

Now that ban is lifted, Veronda questions how a registered, unleashed pit bull would’ve caused less harm.

“I’m a little uncertain about how the guidelines and the new ordinances are going to keep us safe. They’re relying on the owners to be honest and I feel like every week I see another pit bull in the neighborhood,” said Smith.

Veronda says animal control was requested to up patrol in the area after increased reports of dogs running free. Breed advocates claim, “There are no bad dogs – only bad owners.” But claim it is the good owners who bury good dogs.

“It’s your responsibility to make sure that backyard is secure. If they can’t secure it, have them chained so they can’t get away. Something to protect owners in terms of liability, but also to protect other people and their animals,” said Smith. “We witnessed our dog, on our lawn, dead. This was the one place where he should’ve been safe.”

Neither the owner nor the dogs that attacked Walter have been found.

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On Wednesday, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment hosted a live run-through of the restricted-breed assessment. Officials explained the steps to determine if a dog is one of the restricted breeds, which include American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Tori Mason