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South Carolina residents: Read this before abandoning your dog

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Unfortunately there's a growing trend in South Carolina where residents decide to leave behind the family dog when they move. When the former four-legged family member suffers from any of the issues created from lack of care, should the owner be charged?

South Carolina residents need to read up on animal cruelty law before moving away and abandoning a pet.

Let's look at South Carolina cruelty to animals statute 47-1-70, which covers all dogs except those used for hunting. This law also covers cats, but dogs are the species to suffer most when left behind by the family who once loved them.

What is animal abandonment, according to South Carolina? It's described as any pet that is deserted, forsaken or given up without finding another owner or without providing what is necessary to keep the dog healthy and safe. This includes

*Fresh and adequate water must be provided for the animal
*Nutritious food must be provided for the animal, relevant to species and at adequate intervals
*A shelter must be provided for the animal to protect said animal from the elements and to prevent suffering or impairment of health

A person who doesn't provide all of the above, who just walks away (abandons) a pet they once loved, is guilty of pet abandonment. This is considered a misdemeanor in South Carolina, where state laws are among the most lax in the U.S.

Examiner National Dog reporter Penny Eims recently posted this article on a dog who froze to death.

Anyone who abandons a pet is guilty of a misdemeanor and the case must be tried in magistrate's or municipal court. A sentence in the form of a fine of not less than $200 or more than $500 and/or jail time of not more than 30 days must be given that person upon conviction.

The law, although providing petty punishment, is very clear on this issue. Section 47-1-70 doesn't mince words and say "perhaps" the guilty part should be punished for abandoning their pet. The law states the person "MUST" be fined/and or imprisoned.

Is this law being enforced? Not likely. The former owner of the abandoned pet usually has a touching story behind the reason for leaving their residence without their four-legged family member.

Even in this ongoing abuse case out of Greenville County, the alleged guilty party was given a ticket equal in severity to a parking violation. Despite a previous malicious animal cruelty conviction, South Carolina law isn't taking the case of Roger Owens dragging an abandoned dog behind his truck for the serious crime it is.

This Examiner article covers how Greenville County Animal Control is currently over this case. The solicitor's office is considering more charges, but at the time of this article no additional charges have been filed.

Many animals are turned in to Greenville County Animal Care Services each month when a concerned party loads up a stray dog and hands it over to the shelter. This option may seem unsympathetic to dog lovers, but consider the option. Just how many dogs die each year in Greenville County due to lack of food, water or shelter?

The lesson for those who are in the process of changing legal residence is this: find someone responsible to care for your dog, or take it to a shelter. Even euthanasia is kinder than allowing an animal to slowly starve to death.

Animal Control or law enforcement also needs to tighten down by filing charges again those guilty of this crime. They seem to have forgotten it IS a crime in South Carolina to abandon-or abuse-a pet. It's a shame this crime is considered a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

How do you feel about South Carolina residents who move away and leave their very confused pet standing in the driveway, or chained to a runner without the necessities needed to sustain life? Your comments are welcome.

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