South Carolina Bill Unfairly Targets Pit Bulls

If a bill that was recently introduced in South Carolina passes into law, the owners of pit bulls and dogs perceived to be pit bulls will have to pay a hefty $500 fee to register and microchip dogs that haven’t been spayed or neutered. Those who don’t pay the fee will face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison.

Encouraging dog owners to spay or neuter their pets is a really good idea. About 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and about 670,000 of them don’t make it out alive. Shelter overpopulation is one of the reasons Rep. Chip Huggins (R-Lexington County) introduced Bill 3709 in January. Spaying and neutering pets is one way to help resolve this issue.

But one of the problems with Bill 3709 is that it singles out certain dogs based entirely on their looks. It defines a “pit bull” as “a dog that is an American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, a dog displaying the physical traits of one or more of the above breeds, or a dog exhibiting the distinguishing characteristics that conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.”

Why shouldn’t the bill’s requirements apply to all dog owners? Bill 3709 is an example of breed-specific legislation (BSL), unfair laws that punish responsible owners and their well-behaved dogs. For these reasons, BSL most major animal welfare organizations strongly oppose BSL. That includes the ASPCA, which says it “should truly be called breed-discriminatory law.”

Fortunately, the trend has been to remove BSL rather than enforce it. Most recently, Garfield Heights, Ohio, repealed its pit bull ban last month after an appellate court ruled that BSL is unconstitutional.

Although Bill 3709 doesn’t specifically require pit bulls to be sterilized, animal welfare organizations—including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the ASPCA—oppose mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws, which typically apply to most dogs and cats over four months old. These laws may “contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination, and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences,” the AVMA states.

Instead of MSN laws, the ASPCA supports “voluntary, affordable, accessible spay/neuter programs for owned pets,” according to its position statement.

Affordability is another issue with Bill 3709. Some responsible pit bull owners who can’t afford to spay or neuter their pets also won’t be able to afford that $500 fee. That will mean even more dogs ending up in the state’s already overcrowded shelters.

Bill 3709 states that pitbulls are “the most desired breed for dog fighting, and dying at a higher rate in local animal shelters than any other breed in South Carolina.” So why punish responsible dog owners? It’s highly unlikely that criminals involved in illegal dog-fighting operations, not to mention unethical breeders, will bother to register their dogs.

According to the bill, “fertile dogs are more likely to be territorial and therefore more likely to bite” and “most dog bite fatalities are committed by dogs that were not spayed or neutered.” This is more reason why the bill should apply to all dogs. It should be noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly opposes using dog breeds as a factor in bite prevention policies because “any dog of any breed has the potential to bite.”

Requiring registration to own a fertile pit bull “would provide a safety component for the public and the dog,” Bill 3709 states. Would it? There is no evidence that breed-specific legislation like this has actually increased public safety wherever it’s been enacted, according to the ASPCA.

Like most breed-specific legislation, Bill 3709, if passed, will be expensive to enforce. Instead, why not spend those funds on affordable spay and neuter programs—for all dog breeds?

Take Action

Please sign and share this petition urging South Carolina legislators to oppose Bill 3709.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: lenelarson86


Benjamin S
Benjamin Shaw18 days ago


Georgina Elizab M
Georgina Elizab Mabout a month ago


Czerny A
Czerny Aabout a month ago

Responsible pitbull owners will spay/neuter/train their dogs and obey the law, but dog fighters and thugs won't obey the laws no matter what. Now why does that have a familiar ring?

joan silaco
joan silacoabout a month ago


Barbara S
Barbara Sabout a month ago


Past Member
Past Member about a month ago


Devin K
Devin Koblasabout a month ago

like it

Michael F
Michael Friedmannabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Callie R
Callie Rabout a month ago

And yet, they will let humans, the most dangerous, unpredictable animal on the planet, run loose and anywhere they wish.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaegeabout a month ago

Signed. I think the owners should first train their animals properly.