The South Dakota Senate on Tuesday narrowly approved a measure that would forbid local governments from banning specific breeds of dogs.
Senators voted 19-16 to advance the measure to the House.
Supporters argued the bill protects dog owners’ rights, while opponents countered that it interferes with local control.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, said it would protect people’s property rights while allowing cities and counties to make other decisions about dogs.
“The breed of the dog does not determine the risk,” Lederman said, citing testimony from a veterinarian and dog behavior expert. He said a dog’s owners and circumstances have more impact on its conduct than its specific breed.
Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, agreed that the bill supports individual property rights, saying it would allow residents to move freely between communities with their dogs.
Opponents argued the state should not interfere with local government decisions. The Aberdeen City Council has tried and failed in the past to ban pit bulls. Other South Dakota cities, including Tea, Hurley and Sturgis, have bans or special conditions set for certain dog breeds.
The bill does not alter a local governments’ ability to make regulations that affect all dogs.
Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, opposed the bill on grounds that it challenges local governments’ control. Tidemann added that the bill failed to address the source of dog issues – dog owners.
“I don’t think this solves the problem,” he said.
Other senators questioned whether there are some temperament variations among breeds of dogs. Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, said temperament is considered genetic in livestock, so it may exist in dog breeds.
Lederman said he didn’t think there was a correlation between genetic temperament and breed.
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