South Carolina’s Lax Animal Protections Can Lead to Animal Cruelty Criminal Charges
When it comes to animal protection laws, South Carolina ranks 45th out of 50 among US states. Because of few defined regulations around proper treatment, many people could face animal cruelty criminal charges.
South Carolina law allows animals to be treated like property, and less like living creatures. Per the state’s law, for example, animals do not have to be let out of their cages as long as they are being fed. There are also no laws that prevent puppy mills – the repeated impregnation of a female dog under cruel conditions just to produce puppies for sale.
Even if an animal starves because of animal cruelty, it is difficult to prove fault in the state.
According to animal rights activists, South Carolina’s lax animal protections allow many people to start puppy mills in their own homes and earn a living free of taxes. Breeders make thousands of dollars on some popular breeds, which can drive many toward puppy mills to make comfortable livings.
“So your high-volume breeders have your Shih Tzus, your Maltese, your Poodles, Pomeranians and then your combination of all those mixed together,” said Holly Wagner, an animal cruelty investigator at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. “The pugs – all the small breeds. They sell them for $200-$1,000. They make money off of them. They’ve taken runts and bred them back top runts to keep getting them smaller. A lot of the time, they have heart murmurs and skin conditions.”
Wagner added that many of these breeders keep female dogs for breeding in small cages so they can’t move around. When the breeders are done, the animals are literally thrown in the trash, or allowed to starve to death.
To help combat animal cruelty and prevent animal cruelty criminal charges, especially involving puppy mills in South Carolina, Representative Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, introduced a new animal rights bill to the House. He said that, with the state’s animal cruelty criminal charges laws as they are now, a puppy mill owner can be charged with a misdemeanor for animal cruelty, which is “virtually no penalty at all.”
“There’s some legislators here that are leery of controlling the dog population, having those kinds of bills,” Taylor said. “They’re leery of felony penalties. I understand that. It’s easy to have government overreach. The fact is, most breeders do it right. It’s those exceptions we write laws for and need to write stiff laws for, so they don’t do the wrong things.”
Meanwhile, animal protection advocates and breeding experts say that anyone who looks to a breeder should ask to see the puppy’s parents if they are on site, as well as check out the environment the animals were raised in. They add that it is tempting to buy dogs off of breeders who are committing animal cruelty, but that is only financial incentive for the breeders to continue their cruel business.