A broken leash recently set in motion a series of events that could lead to a challenge of Beaufort County's new pitbull regulations.
Gabriela Gonzalez said she was walking her dog Kyra near her home on Burnt Church Road in greater Bluffton on Tuesday morning when the leash broke.
Kyra went bounding up the road, and Gonzalez took off after her. A car stopped, and the driver scooped Kyra up.
"I was running toward them, and they just picked my dog up and left," Gonzalez said Friday, unsure if the driver knew she had been chasing close behind.
The driver ultimately dropped the dog off at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter, where employees determined Kyra is a pitbull. They also determined she was subject to the county's new rules.
County regulations adopted last month now require pitbulls and pit mixes in unincorporated parts of the county to be spayed or neutered.
Kyra is not spayed, but Gonzalez denies she is a pitbull.
"She's not a pitbull; she's an American bully. I have papers to prove she's not a pitbull," she said.
The county's new ordinance gives animal services officials discretion to determine whether a dog is a pitbull, but breeds like American bullies fall into a gray area.
According to the United Kennel Club's online breed guide, the American bully "developed as a natural extension" of the pitbull, but the organization has recognized it as a unique breed since 2013.
However, the American Kennel Club, which many consider the country's preeminent canine pedigree registry, does not recognize the breed as distinct from pitbulls.
After a series of exchanges with animal services officials, Gonzalez said she was able to retrieve her dog from the county shelter Wednesday -- but not before she was hit with $300 in fines and a mandate that she get Kyra spayed within 30 days.
But because Kyra is a show dog, Gonzalez said, she cannot be spayed or altered in any way.
While she says she supports the intent of the county's new pitbull regulations, they shouldn't apply to Kyra.
She added that "there definitely needs to be some adjustments to where good owners (who) love their pets aren't taken advantage of."
Gonzalez said she plans appeal to Magistrate Court to determine whether Kyra should be considered a pitbull and be spayed. She has 10 days from Tuesday's incident to file her appeal.
This week was not Gonzalez's first interaction with Beaufort County Animal Services.
Director Tallulah Trice cited an incident last year in which several of her dogs were found running loose at Tanger Outlets Center. Those dogs, identified on animal services documents as pitbulls, were picked up and they had no identification, microchips or rabies tags, Trice wrote in an email.
Gonzalez or members of her family have "posted four times on (Animal Services' Facebook page) in two years that their animals were lost," Trice wrote.
Gonzalez doesn't deny her dogs have gotten loose in the past, but says it does not represent a pattern of poor pet ownership.
"People make mistakes, dogs get out," she said.