A patient at Five Points Animal Clinic hangs out under a chair in the waiting room. Photo by: Noah Watson
More than 80 abused dogs were rescued across South Carolina last month.
Those dogs are among the nearly 400 that have been rescued so far this year, according to The State Newspaper.
A House bill, currently in committee, would help address that, by preventing abusers from owning another animal for up to five years after a conviction.
Jenna Syphore, a receptionist at the Five Points Animal Clinic, thinks tightening animal abuse laws would help protect them from people who would harm them.
“They definitely need to be heightened,” Syphore said. “If they would really make these laws more strict, then I do believe there wouldn’t be as much animal abuse.”
South Carolina ranks in the bottom 20% in the strength of its laws protecting animals, according to Stacker, a data-driven research website.
The sentence for a felony animal abuse charge ranges from 188 days to five years, with a $5,000 fine.
There was a push at the legislative level to see a change in 2013. Deborah Long, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, proposed a bill to create an animal abuse registry for people who have been convicted on those charges. However, the bill never made it to a vote.
When she brought her idea to the table, Long said, her colleagues told her she wouldn’t be taken seriously by the rest of the representatives.
“A lot of people out there just don’t want to be associated with certain issues,” Long said. “And I’ll tell you the truth, there’s some people that are afraid to be associated with those issues. The ones that do the dogfighting ring, they could go after somebody’s legislator, especially in one certain part of the state. They could be putting their lives and families’ lives at risk.”
There was invested interest in pushing the bill through, which led to bipartisan support from Mary Tinkler, a former Democratic representative. Tinkler said the bill needed more support from leaders to pass.
“Until it affects someone who has the weight of and the ability to move something through, it may not happen as quickly as we would like it to happen,” Tinkler said. “And that’s sort of where this is falling. So they don’t find it as big of an issue to delve into as other things in the state. But again, Deborah and I have a soft heart for animals. And that’s something that we were looking out for, our innocent beings.”
A bill that passed in 2019 included one provision of Long’s and Tinkler’s proposal.
It takes away an abuser’s pet after a conviction. The pet is sheltered by the South Carolina Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals until it is fit for adoption.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Noah Watson is a senior sports journalism major at the University of South Carolina. He looks for the obscure side of sports, focusing on the fun. He has covered sports for the student-run Daily Gamecock and WACH FOX 57. His dream job is to make sports documentaries.
Simmons is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina with an interest in sports media. He writes for the Boston-based sports media company, LFG Sports covering fan-related sports topics such as college rivalry culture. Simmons is from Goose Creek, S.C., and is an aspiring author with an interest in sports fiction. He also writes music and poetry. Simmons is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the National Association of Black Journalists.
Veltri is a senior journalism student at the University of South Carolina. Outside the classroom, he interns at Gamecock Central, covering athletics. He spent three years at the student-run newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, covering baseball and softball and serving as sports editor. He recently covered the hardships local teachers face living on an average salary of $38,000. In his free time, he likes to work out and watch anything Star Wars and Marvel related.