South Carolina

Proposal would mandate spaying pit bulls in SC community

This dog is one of several pit bull mixes at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter.
This dog is one of several pit bull mixes at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter. Beaufort County Government

Pit bulls and mixes would be required to be spayed or neutered in one South Carolina community under a working draft of a Beaufort County animal control ordinance.

Beaufort County Animal Services director Tallulah Trice said the measure is in response to the shelter being overcrowded with the breed. She said 90 percent of the shelter's euthanized animals are pit bulls.

She noted that the proposed ordinance was a long time coming and not a knee-jerk reaction to recent dog attacks in the county.

"It's not the breed we're going after," Trice said before presenting the ordinance to a Beaufort County Council governmental committee on Monday. "People just can't adopt them. They can't move them, because shelters we work with won't take any pit or pit mixes, because they have the same problem we have in this county. The county is just trying to be proactive and reduce the number of intakes as well as euthanasia."

Pit bulls are defined in the ordinance as any American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Stafford bull terrier or "any dog that exhibits the physical characteristics" that conform to American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club or American Dog Breeders Association standards for those breeds.

Committee chairman Stu Rodman said a lot of discussion would be required and suggested the ordinance be brought back up at a work session.

Committee vice chairman Rick Caporale cited some recent cases in the news, wondering how that the county's dangerous animals determination was currently being enforced and the criteria used.

In March, a Bluffton woman and her Chihuahua were attacked by what Bluffton police said was a pit bull in Bluffton Park. At least one dog was euthanized after a dog attacked three other dogs in Sea Pines in May.

A greyhound was killed by a Bluffton Park pit bull on May 20. The pit bull's owner was cited for having an animal running at large.

In 2012, a Port Royal owner contested a "dangerous animal" label when his dog killed another dog after getting loose from his fenced-in yard. That owner also was cited for having a dog running at large.

Under the working version of the county ordinance, a dangerous animal is one the owner knows or should know could attack unprovoked and hurt a human or animal, an animal owned for the purpose of fighting, or one used as a weapon in a crime.

Animals deemed dangerous must be kept inside a house, kennel or pen unless secured by a short leash and muzzle. The owner must provide proof of $50,000 liability insurance and pay $5 to register as having a dangerous animal.