The SC Legislature is continuing to work on S0223 – a bill which amounts to extortion of pet owners accused (not convicted, mind you) of animal cruelty in the state. A few changes have been made to the language since I first blogged on it, but the substance remains the same:
Anyone charged with animal cruelty or dogfighting (Note – this latter is a presumption on my part. The bill states “Chapter 24 of Title 16” but there is no such Chapter. Chapter 27 of Title 16 is the Animal Fighting and Baiting Act and since dogs are routinely seized in those cases, my guess is that “Chapter 24” is a typo.) and whose pets have been seized can be charged a monthly fee by the organization housing the pets. Specifically:
The court shall set the amount of funds necessary for thirty days’ care after taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the need to care for and provide for the animal pending the disposition of the litigation, the recommendation of the custodian of the animal, the estimated cost of caring for and providing for the animal, and the defendant’s ability to pay.
For each 30 day period the case remains unresolved, the fees are automatically renewed. The defendant must pay the court determined fees every 30 days.
- If the defendant can’t come up with the money each month, he loses rights of ownership to his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.
- If the defendant’s case eventually results in a not guilty determination, he still has to pay all the fees, current through the day he was cleared of charges. (If the custodian hasn’t withdrawn every last penny from the account, the defendant can get a refund of any leftover funds.) If he can’t come up with the money, he loses his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.
- And of course, if the defendant is ultimately found guilty and has been paying the monthly fees all along, he loses rights of ownership to his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.
Wait, there’s more! Now how much would you pay?
Any person violating the laws in relation to cruelty to animals may be arrested and held, without warrant, in the same manner as in the case of persons found breaking the peace.
And as a special bonus:
Individuals from humane type groups can be deputized with the power to arrest without warrant, seize animals and take custody of those animals. Then you gotta pay ’em.
For an idea of what the courts deem a reasonable fee for seized dogs, we can look at the recent Wilkes Co, NC case where 127 Pitbulls were seized. In that case, the fee for 60 days worth of “care” for the dogs was $53,000.
I’m not sure where the bar has to be set these days in order to motivate pet owners to take action but this bar’s in the dirt. Contact your elected representatives and let them know, politely and respectfully, that this bill is wrong for South Carolina:
601 Gressette Bldg.
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 212-6116