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Anderson dog owner fined for tethering ordinance violation speaks out

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One of the owner's of a three-year-old dog named Chocolate spoke with Fox Carolina on January 14, where she offered an explanation of why their former pet was in critical condition when rescued by Bonnie Metz. This Examiner story covered the original story.

Metz saved Chocolate and one of her puppies by paying $73 for the two dogs. A video of that interview, which won't embed, can be viewed here.

Brittany Stephens, charged with violating the Anderson tethering ordinance, explained Chocolate's condition, claiming Chocolate became depressed and refused to eat after the dog lost her litter of 12 puppies. Stephens also explained the back injury being caused when Chocolate was attacked by another dog.

Stephens said she and her husband, Preston Hawkins, didn't deserve getting the ticket

"She stopped eating. She didn't eat maybe it was two and a half weeks."

Anderson police officers said Stephens told them the same story. That Chocolate would only eat a few bites of her food, which over time caused the dog to lose 20 pounds.

Bonnie Metz gave a run-down of Chocolate's problems in a Fox Carolina interview, based on her veterinarian's diagnosed after she took the rescued dog for emergency treatment.

"She had hookworms, round worms, whip worms, tape worms and heart worms and she was dehydrated."

Although Stephens says Chocolate had no appetite, a photo taken by Bonnie Metz shortly after rescue shows a dog eating as though she had gone a long time since a good meal.

Chocolate's puppy is in a foster home, where she's improving daily. Freedom Fences, a local business who mission statement is to unchain dogs and provide them with a safe, secure area to run, is responsible for Chocolate's vet bill.

Which part of the law does Stephens believe she and her husband have been wrongly charged? South Carolina Animal Law 47-1-10 defines what constitutes the ill treatment of animals, as well as punishment for those found guilty.

The ill treatment of animals is defined as knowingly or intentionally depriving any animal of necessary sustenance or shelter, inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering either by doing something or by not doing something.

This is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of $100-$500 for the first offense. This is what the majority of those who starve animals are charged with.

There's also a second provision to ill treatment of animals that is a felony punishable by imprisonment of not less than 180 days and not more than 5 years and a $5,000 fine. A person who tortures, torments, needlessly mutilates, cruelly kills or inflicts excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering by either doing something or withholding something.

Shouldn't withholding food, or failing to seek veterinary care if the food given didn't nourish the dog fall under felony animal cruelty?

Abandonment or neglect are a separate misdemeanor offense, meaning an animal hasn't been provided adequate food, water or shelter. It carries a $200-$500 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Sustenance is defined as food or drink that allows you to continue to be alive. ... of wealth; a new or reserve supply that can be drawn upon when needed.

Not only does this definition mean that food must be provided, that food must prove nourishing to whoever is eating it. Should that food not prove nourishing, then the person in charge of providing it should seek medical help in determining the problem.

Stephens stated in her interview with Fox Carolina that Chocolate had been attacked by another dog, causing the injury to her spine. Keep in mind that ill treatment of animals, as explained above, can be committed by either doing or not doing something.

While the family may not have inflicted the injury upon this poor dog, did they at any time seek veterinary care for the injury? Failing to act on an injury by not providing medical care IS ill treatment of animals.

Felony animal cruelty may be a bit tougher to prove, because it would involve Stephens and her husband causing their dog to suffer by withholding food. If they didn't seek veterinary treatment for their injured dog, that could possibly fall under felony animal cruelty.

Animal neglect is a misdemeanor in South Carolina. Was Chocolate neglected by not taking her to a veterinarian to be evaluated? It's sad that someone who is supposed to love their dog could stand by and watch that dog lose 20 pounds and do nothing.

And what is the defense of the report made to police saying Chocolate was living in a filthy environment without adequate food or water?

Thank you, Bonnie Metz for saving Chocolate and her puppy. And thank you to the kind people at Freedom Fences, who are paying Chocolate's vet bills.

How do the readers here feel this case should be handled? Should felony animal cruelty charges be filed against the owners? There's been no new information coming out of Anderson as to whether more charges are even being considered.

With each case of animal neglect that is allowed to happen without the owner's being charged, a message is sent to those who live in Anderson that this type of behavior will be tolerated. That needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Your comments are welcome.

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