A 3-year-old pit bull named Gumdrop ended 2020 as a stray on the streets of Denver. But he started 2021 by making history as the first pit bull legally adopted since voters repealed a ban on the breed that had stood for over 30 years.
Since 1989, it had been illegal to own any dog deemed to have the majority appearance of a pit bull — an umbrella term including American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers.
But in November 2020, voters overwhelmingly passed legislation that replaces the outright ban with a provisional breed-restricted license to help monitor any incidents; it also requires vaccinations and that pets be spayed/neutered. It launched Jan. 2 — which happened to be the first day that Gumdrop became available for adoption from Denver Animal Shelter.
The pittie had been scanned for a microchip by VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital (which was featured on the Animal Planet series “Emergency Vets”), but he didn’t have one. Then Denver Animal Protection placed him on a standard stray hold to give his owner time to come forward, but no one claimed him.
Then a family in Colorado Springs, Colorado, saw his photo.
Ann Cecchine-Williams, deputy executive director of Denver's Department of Public Health & Environment, which oversees Denver Animal Protection and its shelter, told TODAY in an email that a couple with an infant but no other dogs drove over an hour to meet and adopt Gumdrop on Jan. 5. They renamed him Odin.
“Odin is a fun-loving, sweet and energetic boy who loves playing with toys,” she said.
So far, nine Denver residents have applied for a breed-restricted permit, and dozens of other “bully breed” owners have completed breed assessments, but their dogs have been determined not to be pit bulls by city officials.
The city also reunited a pit bull named Nala with her owner thanks to the ban being lifted.
Cecchine-Williams said pit bulls are “amazing dogs” and hopes more people will consider opening their homes to them when they have the time, attention and resources to commit to taking care of another living creature.
“Working from home naturally lends itself to spending more time with your pet, but hopefully we won’t be in a pandemic forever and life — and work — will return back to normal, so a big decision like adopting a pet should be made with the long-term in mind, which is why fostering might make more sense to some folks,” she said.
To that end, Denver Animal Protection counsels adopters to consider their time, budget and expectations when choosing to adopt pets.
“We love it when people are open-minded about their adoption options because they may be surprised which cute critter makes perfect sense for their lifestyle,” she said. “Everything from the animal’s energy, grooming needs, veterinary care, and even the dynamic of their home — other pets and people — should be considered when finding a new pet to love and adopt. It is surprising how many people come to us with a specific breed in mind and then realize they love another animal who’s a better fit for them.”
Now that pit bulls can be adopted in Denver, it opens up even more opportunities for animal lovers — and of course, the dogs themselves. Odin turned out to be a perfect fit for his new family. Though they’ve asked not to be named, Cecchine-Williams shared that it’s a terrific match.
“Gumdrop, now Odin, was super lucky to find such a wonderful new owner,” she said. “We are beyond thrilled to be able to help more dogs find loving, permanent homes.”