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Sumter County Councilman proposes method to curb dog fighting

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Dog fighting became a national headline when the police raided one of the homes of NFL quarterback Michael Vick. He's now been indicted on federal dog fighting charges.

In the Midlands we are all too familiar with the sight of the brutal training devices and the abused dogs. Some people in Sumter County want to help stop the practice.
Forty-one pit bulls currently at the Sumter County animal shelter came there from what investigators call a dog fighting ring they busted in May.

The dogs were detained by contraptions like chains and boxes, making them more aggressive.

Gene Baten of the Sumter County Council says, "It hurts my heart."

So Baten is proposing an ordinance. "My ordinance would limit the number of pit bulls a person can own at any one time, and that limit will be five."

"When I see people with 10, 20, 30 dogs; I know their intent is no good," Baten says. "They don't have 20 to 30 dogs as pets."

People who breed pit bulls would need a license.

The ordinance passed first reading Tuesday.

Three council members voted against the ordinance. They say it's not fair to limit the number of dogs anyone can have, based on some people who use them to fight.

Opponents also believe a breed-specific rule is unconstitutional. And they don't think an ordinance is enough to stop the fighting.

But part of Baten's passion comes from being a dog lover - of his Chow, Scarlet. "I know what it takes to treat a dog right - provide for the dog."

There will be a public hearing about the ordinance next month.

To help prevent animal cruelty, the Humane Society has several tips for spotting dog fighting. Telltale signs include:

A large number of dogs, often pit bulls, in one location, chained and apparently unsocialized.

Signs of or the obvious presence of a fighting pit.

Dogs with scars on their faces and front legs.

Dogfighting training equipment or treadmills.

The remains of fighting animals outside.

People coming and going at odd hours.

The Humane Society adds that pit bulls can be wonderful family pets, but when they're mistreated by irresponsible owners, that is when they can become so damaged that they are dangerous.


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