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Lawmakers met with animal advocates to discuss tougher cruelty laws for SC

Andra Grace was dragged behind her owner's pickup truck
Andra Grace was dragged behind her owner's pickup truck
Facebook: Justice for Andra Grace

A meeting was held today in Simpsonville to discuss strengthening animal cruelty laws in South Carolina, WSPA News reported February 28.

South Carolina House Representative Garry Smith met today with U.S. Humane Society member Jeanette Jacobs at The Coach House to discuss better laws to protect abused animals in South Carolina.

Friday is U.S. Humane Society Lobby Day, where lawmakers across the country met with Humane Society representatives and animal advocates to discuss ways to stop animal abuse.

Jeanette brought examples of pending legislation to make it clear to Representative Smith that residents of South Carolina are tired of animal abuse in their state. Jeanette gave a run-down of recent cases of abuse stating

“We've seen animals that have been shot, stabbed, had acid poured on them, dipped in oil and set on fire. These are extreme cruelty cases and this is where we want to see felony penalties for these types of things."

This past year has seen those charged with animal abuse, or ill treatment of animals as it's referred to in South Carolina, get off with a minor fine and little or no jail time.

When asked, Smith blamed the lax verdicts handed down on how lawmakers define animal cruelty. What's cruelty and what is a family not having the financial means to care for an animal come into play when a case of abuse is reported.

Many charged with ill treatment of animals are so stressed financially that they can't afford vaccines or a visit to the vet if their companion animal is sick.

Jeanette summed up the animal cruelty in South Carolina as it being a gateway crime that often leads to the abuser harming people.

This is a very personal issue for me, as I've covered dozens of abuse cases in South Carolina over the past year. In some counties, animal control officers refuse to charge those responsible for ill treatment of an animal.

The case of Andra Grace, the dog who was dragged behind a pickup last fall, is a perfect example of lax laws. Roger Owens received a "ticket" for dragging his dog behind a pickup.

It was only after public outcry and the documentation that Owens had a previous charge of malicious treatment of animals that charges were upgraded to a felony. Hopefully his family will leave him in jail this time, as he awaits trial on a $30,000 bond.

I'm not a veterinarian, but I'm by no means blind. When I see a dog with every single rib showing, it's quite plain the dog is emaciated. Why aren't owners being charged when animal control pays a visit to the home?

How is it possible that animal control considers a cardboard box, or a chicken coop with a piece of siding over the top, suitable shelter from the cold and rain?

Even when animal control does their job and charges the owner, the judges are more likely than not to pass the lightest sentence possible on the abuser.

Smith says he would like to be kept informed on what those in rescue are seeing in the Greenville area when they rescue a dog. The outcome on similar cases in the past is taken into consideration as well. In an interview with Fox Carolina, Smith said

“We have to ask, exactly how you define animal cruelty. How do you determine what is cruelty and what is discipline?"

Can anyone explain to me what the above comment means by "discipline?" Personally, I'd be ashamed to use the term discipline and emaciated in the same sentence.

You don't starve an animal to teach the animal. There are community programs out there to help those going through financial hardship. The dog has most likely been starved to inflict emotional and physical pain. Willfully, on purpose, with full knowledge by the owner that the abuse is taking place.

This is not something that happens by accident.

Perhaps we need to define the exact terms so lawmakers will know what's acceptable and what's not. Social media seems to be doing a good job at that. But it's a shame when South Carolina residents are more proactive in helping animals than those paid to protect.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how residents can better work with lawmakers to toughen South Carolina law? Please leave a comment below.