The number of pit bulls spayed and neutered at Beaufort County shelters has more than doubled since the adoption of a new animal ordinance last year.
The ordinance, approved by the Beaufort County Council in October 2015 and municipal governing bodies in subsequent months, requires that all pit bulls and pit mixes be altered in an effort to fight the overpopulation burdening shelters.
Between October 2014 and when the ordinance was passed, 285 pit bulls were spayed and neutered by the county shelter and the Hilton Head Humane Association free of charge.
That number jumped to 691 in the roughly 14 months since the new regulations took effect, director of Beaufort County Animal Services Tallulah Trice said Tuesday.
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More than 400 of those recently spayed pit bulls were female, she said. Because female pits can have litters of up to a dozen puppies, the stepped-up sterilization efforts have stopped the birth several thousand puppies — many of which would have likely ended up in shelters, she said.
“We had basically become a pit bull sanctuary — and to a degree we still are,” Trice said. “It’s frustrating and disheartening when they don’t get adopted and we have to turn around and euthanize them.”
Assistant county attorney Allison Coppage, who helped craft the animal ordinance, said earlier this week that the regulations are simply a population control measure rather than an indication that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.
Trice agreed, saying the county’s regulations requiring alteration have “nothing to do with the behavior” of specific breeds.
“It’s not that we are anti-pit bull; we just don’t have the resources for them to continue reproducing in our county,” she said.
Overpopulation makes the already difficult process of getting pit bulls adopted even tougher, Trice said.
“Every day, I hear (from visitors to the shelter), ‘Is this all you have? Pit bulls?’ ” she said.
Pit bulls stay at local shelters for an average of about a month, while golden retrievers and German shepherds are typically adopted within 10 days, county animal service documents show.
Even with the success of the regulations that require spaying and neutering, the county still faces challenges with pit bull overpopulation.
Despite the fact that shelters struggle to adopt out pit bulls, there is a thriving online market for pit puppies, Trice said.
Puppy sellers — including those who advertise from Jasper County, Savannah and Charleston on social media websites such as Facebook — are “breeding them and bringing them here,” she said.
The county is partnering with the Hilton Head Humane Association to build a new $5 million shelter along S.C. 170 in the Okatie area in an effort to further reduce the strain of overpopulation at existing shelters and rescues.
Deputy county administrator Josh Gruber said earlier this week that design work on the facility is about 80 percent complete, and he is hoping to bring a construction contract before the County Council in the spring.