The two news organizations analyzed dog euthanasia cases from 2013 at the major shelters along the Front Range. Combined, they accounted for about 4,800 of the 7,000 dogs euthanized statewide.
However, the number of dogs euthanized in the state was small when compared to the number of dogs shelters adopt out or return to their owners. In 2013, shelters found homes for almost 53,000 dogs and returned close to another 24,000 to their owners.
Pit bulls stood out as a breed for euthanasia, accounting for 766 of the Front Range cases. More than half of those, 445, took place at the Humane Society of Pikes Peak, the shelter for El Paso County and its cities. They totaled about 40 percent of all of the about 1,100 dogs put down at the shelter last year.
Jan Smith, director of the shelter, said a combination of factors account for the high numbers.
“They’re a very popular breed here in El Paso County, so we see a large influx of those animals coming in,” Smith said. In addition, the county’s population tends to be transient leading to a large number of stray animals, she said.
“What’s interesting is that about 72 percent of those dogs (pit bulls coming to the shelters) are strays,” Smith said.
She said the pit bulls are harder to place with families than other breeds taken in by the shelter. “We are outraged about the number of animals we have to euthanize every year,” Smith said. “We’re working proactively to try to get these dogs into homes.”
Roger Haston, executive director of the Animal Assistance Foundation, said another problem is that spay and neutering by pit bull owners is lacking.
“The shelters are simply a reflection of what is going on in the community,” Haston said.
The analysis showed that almost 90 percent of the pit bulls euthanized at the shelter were because of aggression or high arousal tendencies. That compares to 50 percent of all euthanasia cases for all breeds along the Front Range.
But animal rights activist Davyd Smith of No Kill Colorado said shelters are too quick to label pit bulls as aggressive.
“We’re killing dogs that have a square head, short hair and straight tail,” Smyth said. “It has nothing to do with their behavior.”
The shelter serving all of Jefferson County and its cities euthanized 125 Pit Bulls in 2013, the second highest number along the Front Range.
Denver and Aurora, which both ban Pit Bulls, euthanized 89 combined.
Labradors were the second most euthanized breed along the Front Range last year, 435 cases, followed by Chihuahuas, 337, and German Shepherds, 230.
Jeremy Jojola of 9News contributed to this report. To see the full K9 Confidential project click here.