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Most showed up to defend man's best friends - in this case, pit bulldogs.
Others handed out police incident reports and photographs of wounds suffered at the mouths of pit bulls.
It was clear in County Council chambers Monday night - either you love pit bulls, or you hate them, and the county needs to do more work on a proposed ordinance that targets dangerous dogs.
Councilmen Jack Estridge, Wesley Grier and Wayne Kersey have been working on an ordinance over the past year that tightens several animal laws. The part of the law that drew a standing-room-only crowd to Monday's council meeting would have designated pit bulls, American bulldogs and Perro de Presa Canario dogs as dangerous, regardless of whether the dogs have ever attacked anyone.
The proposed ordinance called for owners of these breeds to house outdoor dogs in heavy-gauge wire pens with concrete floors, to register them with Lancaster County Animal Control and to post a "Caution - dangerous animal on this property" sign at their homes. The proposed ordinance also called for the dogs to wear fluorescent yellow or orange collars.
Residents speak for, against dogs
Even before residents addressed council, Council Chairman Rudy Carter said council would appoint a citizens committee to work with council's animal committee to tweak the ordinance.
"We do have a problem" with dogs, Carter said. "But my theory is, you put the stamp on the owner."
His comment was followed by an "Amen," from the audience.
J.B. Denton Road resident John Knight was the first to speak to council.
"I've seen chihuahuas that beat up on these dogs (pit bulls)," Knight said. "The ones you got to worry about are the ones that are fighting these dogs."
Robert Burnham gave a different perspective. He said he was attacked by a pit bull twice while in his yard. The second time, he had to kill the dog.
"You should be able to sit in your own yard without being afraid," Burnham said.
Derek Smith pointed out that courts in Ohio recently ruled that breed-specific legislation, like that included in council's proposed ordinance, was ruled unconstitutional.
Billy Holden, who wore a shirt with "Holden's Pit Bulls' on the front, said he's raised his children and grandchildren around pit bulls with no problems.
John Sexton said he was attacked by a Rottweiler when he was a child and was almost killed. But now he owns a Rottweiler and a German shepherd. Neighborhood children have been harassing his shepherd, which he now keeps in his fenced-in yard in a pen to protect it.
"What about a leash law?" Sexton asked.
Rosemary Whitlock commended council for trying to do what's best for both residents and dogs. She said she was approached, but not attacked, but a pit bull belonging to a neighbor as she walked to her mailbox.
"What about my right to walk to my mailbox?" she asked.
The most emotional comments came from the grandmother of the two 10-year-olds attacked by pit bulls last week, and a mother whose daughter was bit on the face by an American bulldog last year.
Pat Polston, the grandmother, said the male dog had slept with her grandson in the past, and was not provoked in last Thursday's attack. One of her grandsons has a hole in his back, a mangled hip and a dangling ear after the attack.
"They (the dogs) will flip like a pancake," Polston said. "Something needs to be done about these breeds."
Council had cut off the public comment period when Tammy Lynn still spoke up. She brought her daugther, Candace, 4, to the front of the room, so council members could see the scar left by an American bulldog last March.
With her voice shaking, Lynn questioned why the dog's owner was allowed to keep the dog on his property after her daughter was bitten. She said the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and Lancaster County Animal Control shifted blame from one agency to the other. She said her husband, Keith, had to fight to get something done about the incident, while his daughter was in the hospital fighting infection.
"Who is responsible?" she asked.
When the ordinance came up for a vote, council held little discussion.
County Administrator Steve Willis said first reading would be a formality, then committee meetings will be held to amend the ordinance.
The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Fred Thomas voting against it. He said he voted against it to ensure that it would not come up as a consent vote on second reading. Council doesn't have to have discussion on a consent vote.
Willis said Tuesday that it seemed from Monday night's discussion that the county could be moving toward a leash law, which could require dog owners to register their pets annually for a fee. Stray dogs with license tags could be picked up by Animal Control and returned to owners for another fee.
Willis said Clover had a leash law when he was police chief there. It was hectic when owners had to renew their dogs' tags.
"Once a year, you'd get descended upon," Willis said.
Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or email@example.com