Columbia South Carolina Councilman wants breed discriminatory law

An official on the Columbia South Carolina city council is discussing a “bully breed” ordinance.

Though there are no details yet on exactly what the ordinance may encompass and what specific breeds the councilman would like to target, there are certain things that have been said in the media about the potential intent and direction of the idea.

The justifications for this bear a close examination, as they are ones that appear time and time again.

The first justification is that there is an over population issue in shelters.  Columbia is looking into becoming a no-kill community and officials claim that bully breeds are crowding the shelters.

Based on the reports, we can see that this is clearly not the case.  The shelter reports that only 7% of the animals they euthanize are “pit bulls.”  This is a remarkably low number considering the broad classification and the numerous dogs that are typically labeled as pit bulls by shelter staff.  Currently the shelter euthanize about 11,000 animals a year.

Striving to be a no kill community is an admirable goal, but an ordinance targeting 7% leaves the remaining 93% of shelter euthanasia unaddressed.  That is over 10,000 animals being killed.

What does work for communities to become no kill is not to focus on the killing, but to focus on positive outcomes for the animals that are taken in.

Another issue with this thinking is that no kill and breed discriminatory laws cannot co-exist.  Breed discriminatory laws make targeted dogs much more difficult to adopt out.  Increasing the stigma behind certain dogs decreases adoptions, resulting in higher percentages of killing.  The 7% will quickly build under a breed discriminatory law.

The second justification is one of what is called red lining.  Initially coined to describe the practice of banks literally drawing a red line around certain neighborhoods and denying services to those neighborhoods, the term has now come to encompass both denial of services and targeting what are perceived to be communities of lower social standing.  This is not an uncommon justification in breed discriminatory laws.  When we see reference to the laws being used to target drug dealers or dog fighters, the theory of red lining is being used.  The idea is that only certain “elements” of the population have targeted dogs, and therefore creating a law gives authorities the ability to target people without sufficient probable cause.

There is an element of this is the Columbia officials thinking.  Multiple reports reference dog fighting.

“Pitbull fighting is a multi-million dollar business,” said a representative of Columbia Animal Services. “It’s very secretive to catch them. It is almost impossible.”

The Columbia Police Department said there have not been any recent reports of dog fighting within city limits.

The only element of the proposal that has been clearly outlined is differential licensing fees for an unaltered targeted dog.  Currently fees are $25 for an un-altered dog.  The councilman would like to increase that amount.

So far word from some on the council that have responded to concerned residents is leaning in a positive direction.  We are hearing that thus far there is no plan to discuss this by the full council and that this is one council member who is pushing for it.   Some on the council didn’t even hear about this through the council, but rather through the new paper.

Because this is in the conversation stage at this point, and has not officially been brought to the council, now is the best time for residents to become involved.

COUNCIL MEMBERS:

Sam Davis, District 1 – sdavis@columbiasc.net
Tameika Isaac Devine , at large –  e-mail: tidevine@columbiasc.net
Leona K. Plaugh, District 4-  e-mail: lkplaugh@columbiasc.net
Brian DeQuincey Newman, District 2 – e-mail: bdnewman@columbiasc.net
Cameron Runyan, At-Large – email: carunyan@columbiasc.net
Moe Baddourah, District 3 – email: mobaddourah@columbiasc.net

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