Photographs of beloved pit bulls graced the walls of Benders Tavern tonight as opponents of Denver's pit bull ban showed up in force to lobby for change.
The event, sponsored by Any Given Breed, attracted about 100 activists by early in the evening.

"You have to be careful what you declare as a vicious dog," said Rachelle Richardson, who noted that under Denver's laws, Petey, the famed pit bull from the Little Rascals, would have been disallowed.

Richardson and Nick Dickson co-founded Any Given Breed, which is seeking to overturn Denver's pit bull ban. Attendance at Saturday's event required a $10 donation. The evening included music from 10 bands and free food.

Denver Councilwoman Carla Madison, who dislikes Denver's breed ban, attended the event.

Denver's ban, enacted in 1989 after the Rev. Wilbur Billingsley was left with two broken legs after he was attacked by a pit bull, has become a source of tension in city politics.

Supporters of the ban contend pit bulls are a favorite of gang members and also say that the breed has a propensity for violence.

Those fighting the ban say pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog, and argue that Denver's breed ban forces people to part with cherished pets who have become part of the family.

Recently, the Denver City Council rejected efforts to carve out an exemption from the ban that would allow the disabled to use pit bulls as service animals.

Denver Councilman Charlie Brown, who has fought efforts to overturn Denver's ban, on Friday told police he received threatening e-mails from pit bull advocates.

Those in attendance at Saturday's event disavowed any involvement in the e-mails that had earned Brown's ire, but they said they would remain passionate about protecting dogs they say have gotten a bad rap.

Richardson said she owned her first pit bull when she was eight years old. Now a grown woman, she would like to get another one but can't do so as a Denver resident. Rather than move outside the city, she said she's chosen to stay and fight for change.

Toni Phillips, founder and director of Mariah's Promise Animal Sanctuary in Divide, said she has taken in about 200 pit bulls affected by Denver's ban. She said the breed actually is more gentle than other types of dogs.

"Any dog that has teeth can bite, even a Chihuahua," Phillips said. "I don't want to throw any other dog under the but, but the truth is the truth."

The literature displayed at Saturday's event included a poem that read:
"There is no creature on this earth
Who will ever make you merrier.
The animal I do speak of
It's the American Pit Bull Terrier."
Christopher N. Osher: 303-954-1747 or