The Howard County Council voted down a bill last night that would have placed new restrictions on dog owners whose pets have been determined to be dangerous. The measure had its genesis in the current national debate over the care and keeping of pit bull terriers.

After a motion to table the proposed law was defeated, its sponsor, Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, moved to kill it. He then joined the other three council members present in voting against it, saying that would allow him to bring the measure back for reconsideration later.

Although the bill had been the subject of two public hearings and a work session, council members Angela Beltram and Shane Pendergrass said they wanted to give the whole issue of animal control more study before taking final action.

They praised Gray for bringing the matter to the public's attention, and urged him to work with animal specialists and the county animal control officer on another version.

"I feel these efforts will not be wasted because we are now equipped to come up with an even better law," Pendergrass said.

Since it was introduced last month, the bill had generated opposition from pet owners who felt that it was too vague to be meaningful and discriminated against certain breeds, such as pit bulls.

Before last night's vote, Gray had amended his bill to incorporate some of the public's concerns. As amended, it would have defined as dangerous any animal that had inflicted a serious bite on a person or another pet and allowed the county's Animal Matters Hearing Board to require owners of dangerous pets to obtain liability insurance and enroll their animals in obedience classes.

In other action, the council voted 3 to 1 to amend the county's year-old antiapartheid purchasing law to allow exemptions on occasions when the law's provisions conflict with state or federal law.

The amendment was proposed by County Executive Elizabeth Bobo in response to a U.S. Department of Transportation finding that the law made the county ineligible for $200,000 in federal highway funds because it limits competition.

The county law requires businesses seeking government contracts to certify that neither they nor the manufacturers of their products do business with South Africa.

Gray cast the sole opposing vote, saying he did not believe Bobo's administration had yet exhausted all avenues for challenging the federal agency's finding.