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All dogs welcome

The ban has been lifted.

Dogs of a certain breed can no longer be lawfully banned in any town in South Dakota, meaning some area towns will have to adjust.

"The old law gave the chosen breeds that were outlawed a bad name," Spencer native Cathy Allen said. "The person raising that animal should be responsible. Any animal is vicious if provoked."

Seven towns in the last seven years within South Dakota have enacted forms of breed-specific legislation, the restriction of certain breeds of dogs by labeling them as dangerous animals. These breed bans typically target dog breeds like rottweilers, doberman pinschers, bullmastiffs, German shepherds, bull terriers or pit bulls. The following towns have enforced breed bans in South Dakota prior to the new law: Marion (2002), Spencer (2007), Webster (2007), Sturgis (2008), Leola (2009), Mobridge (2009) and Oacoma (2011). Restrictions vary between breeds, depending on the town's ordinance.

But on July 1, Senate Bill 75 went into effect, preventing breed-specific legislation. The new law prohibits local governments from enforcing any regulations on any dog breed. In other words, all dogs are viewed equally in a court of law and cannot be discriminated on, based on their breed.

South Dakota Sen. Bob Ewing introduced the bill, along with other senators, and said he's been bitten more often by small dogs than big ones.

"It's all on how the dog is raised, I don't think it's fair to ban certain breeds," Ewing said.

In 2007, Spencer banned doberman pinschers, rottweilers, wolves, blue heelers and Staffordshire bull terriers, also known as "pit bulls."

At the time, Allen had a 10-year-old pit bull mixed breed named Cupcake who was forced out of Spencer. Cupcake was euthanized due to uterine cancer found shortly after the new city ordinance supporting breed-specific legislation.

Allen said if a dog shows aggression, the owner has to be on top of it and take them away from other people.

"What would you do if you were constantly teased or stuff was thrown at you -- wouldn't you lash out?" Allen said.

Allen said she wasn't the only person affected by the law in Spencer. Others within the town were forced to send their pets elsewhere, she said. Spencer Mayor Donna Ruden, who was the mayor when the ban was passed, declined to comment.

Breed-specific legislation has been lawfully prohibited in 17 states, according to Animal Farm Foundation Inc's. website, including South Dakota. The remaining 33 states have ever-changing laws -- some have enforced that type of legislation, have rejected it, making it legal to posses any breed of dog, or have no such law addressing the issue. Ewing suggests that breed bans are a product of dog fighting, making dogs unnecessarily aggressive, coupled with irresponsible owners. Ewing said it's not fair to target specific breeds of animals and that history shows it could be any dog that lashes out based on the owner's disposition and temperament.

"The folks that raise animals to illegally fight are naturally going to pick a larger breed of a dog that's more muscular," Ewing said. "That's unfortunate, because I got a good friend in town that has got a pit bull, and I've known her since she was a puppy, she is the sweetest dog you would ever meet. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body."

Ewing said he believes the new bill will create a fairness among formerly banned dog breeds and their owners.

"I know some people with these breeds that have been banned and I've been around them, that's why I believe in [SB 75]," Ewing said.

The recently passed bill will make things easier for law enforcement across South Dakota, according to Chamberlain Chief of Police Joe Humacher. Enforcing the old law wasn't always so clear.

"The vicious dog law wasn't easy to enforce from a law enforcement perspective," Hutmacher said. "You have a dog that is a percentage of rottweiler and lab, making it difficult to enforce that law. Is it a lab or is it a rottweiler?"

Hutmacher said the area hasn't dealt with many vicious dogs in the 24 years he's spent in law enforcement. Most problems with vicious dogs stem from irresponsible owners, he said, adding that dogs have been euthanized in Chamberlain, but not because of their breed.