South Dakota, that howling you hear is the sound of independence

By Francis Battista

South Dakotans who visited their state capitol in Pierre July 1 may have wondered what all those pit bull terrier dogs, decked out in Fourth of July celebratory attire, were doing on the capitol steps.

Well, it was South Dakota Pit Bull Independence Day – the day that SB 75 went into effect.

Best Friends Animal Society spearheaded the effort to gain passage of the bill with the goals of protecting property rights and enhancing community safety in the most effective way possible. The March passage of SB 75 was a resounding victory for dogs and dog lovers not only in South Dakota but across the country, where momentum against breed-discriminatory legislation continues to build.

We would like to thank the thousands of concerned citizens who called, wrote, emailed or testified in support of the bill.

Prior to the signing of SB 75, it was legal for local governments in South Dakota to restrict people's right to choose the dog breed or breed mix they felt was right for them. We believe that’s wrong, and it turns out a lot of Americans agree. A recent national survey commissioned by Best Friends Animal Society and conducted by Luntz Global found that 84 percent of those polled believe that local, state or federal governments should not infringe on a person’s right to have whatever breed of dog he or she chooses.

Best Friends staff member Jacque Johnson and her husband, who have a pit bull terrier, are lifelong South Dakota residents. Currently living out of state, they eventually plan to return home to be near the rest of their family. Prior to the passage of SB 75, they feared that when they return, their local city council could pass a law banning their pet — even though their dog has passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.

“My husband and I are both thrilled that the state of South Dakota has elected to ban breed discrimination,” Jacque says. “This law requires communities to put the responsibility where it belongs — squarely on the shoulders of irresponsible dog owners.”

Best Friends works with state legislators around the country to prohibit breed-discriminatory laws and endorse the passage of new laws that focus on the behavior of individual dogs and their owners. Many cities are enacting reckless owner ordinances and 18 states currently prohibit some form of breed discrimination. Four other states are working on similar-themed bills.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society