Our Letter to SC Legislators in Opposition to Bully Breed Bill (H.3709)

August 23rd, 2019

To Whom It May Concern:

There are countless numbers of people who can claim to have learned a thing or two from Lexi.  I know that I sure have.  I got the opportunity to know Lexi and her family by way of a Doctor-Patient-client relationship.  You see, Lexi is a “bully breed” and I am a veterinarian practicing small animal medicine along with my wife and partner, Dr. Leslie Steele, in Mount Pleasant going on 25 years.

Through the years, Lexi has been pretty healthy, but has been plagued by fear and anxiety. Her fears resulted in her behaving aggressively at times.  She and her family managed as best they could and they were happy.  As life goes, circumstances changed and managing her fear and aggression was not so easy anymore.  Her fears had escalated and she was behaving aggressively more often. Her family became concerned for everyone’s safety.  They were at a loss as to what to do.

They were aware of the news reports of the tragic events involving bully breed dogs.  They knew all too well the reaction of people when they see a bully breed dog.  Lexi’s family feared the cruelty of people and the harm she might suffer if she fell into the wrong hands.  They presumed if they took her to a shelter she would be summarily euthanized because of her physical appearance and her fear-based aggression.  Lexi’s family came to the painful conclusion that the best thing to do was to euthanize her.

Thankfully, they came to us.  They came because if she were to be euthanized, at least she would be with those she was familiar and comfortable with.  There was a time when, I too, would have euthanized her for the very same justifications.  I would have euthanized her out of obligation to my client’s request.  Fortunately for Lexi and her family, I now know better.  For the sake of the rest of our pets and our community, we should all know better.

There is a proposed legislation, sponsored by Lexington County Representative Chip Huggins, which is targeting all dogs of the bully breeds, including mixes.  I oppose this breed-specific legislation for many reasons, two of which are that Breed-specific laws are impossible to enforce, especially when a dog’s breed cannot easily be determined and breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.

Some of my colleagues, rescue and humane society organizations (South Carolina Animal Legislative Coalition, No Kill South Carolina, Charleston Animal Society) have endorsed and support this proposed bill.  This support is contrary to the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association, The American Animal Hospital Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, and Humane Society of the United States, all of which have position statements against breed-specific legislation of any sort.  You don’t have to take my word for it, you can find their position statement on their websites:

AAHA Position Statement

AVMA Position Statement

AVSAB Position Statement

Animal Sheltering Position Statement

This breed-specific legislation targeting Pit bull type dogs only serves to perpetuate the prejudicial judgment of their character and value based upon their appearance.  Lexi is no more one dimensional in her behaviors and character than you or I.  Although the intent of this legislation may be for the benefit of these dogs, it will only be an ineffective and unenforceable law, all the while detracting attention away from the real problem of human criminal behavior and cruelty.

Savannah Banana
Savannah, a pit bull terrier, was victim to violence and cruelty before East Cooper Pet Relief intervened to save her from life-threatening injuries (she had to have her front left leg amputated). She now lives happily in a home with a local police officer.

Breed-specific legislation places the blame incorrectly on the dog rather than on the humans who bear the responsibility.  Bite prevention, animal control and legislative approaches to protect the community (human and animals) should not be based on breed, but instead on promoting responsible pet ownership and developing methods to rapidly identify and respond to owners whose dogs present an actual risk. The AVMA recommends the following strategies:

  1. Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, with an emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners.
  2. Enforcement of animal control ordinances such as leash laws, by trained animal care and control officers.
  3. Prohibition of dog fighting.
  4. Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding.
  5. School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention.

Things have ended pretty well for Lexi.  She now lives with us and has a supportive extended family that all work to help her with her fears and aggression.  Although, from time to time, she still slips back to her old habits of using her big muscled body and gaping “frog” mouth to scare off a new delivery person, they soon learn she is just a big misunderstood love bug.

I ask that you vote (ask your congressman to vote) against Bill H.3709 and let us begin to work to produce real legislation that will benefit all pets and the community in an intelligent and compassionate manner.

David Steele, DVM

Leslie Steele, DVM

Advanced Animal Care of Mount Pleasant

East Cooper Pet Relief

Advanced Animal Care of Mt Pleasant Logo-01 4

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