What is Cruelty?
How to Recognize Animal Cruelty
While an aggressive, timid or fearful animal may appear to be a cruelty victim, it is not possible to know if an animal is being abused based on their behavior alone. It is best to examine the animal and his or her surrounding environment to determine whether or not he or she needs help.
Physical Signs of Cruelty
- Tight collar that has caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet’s neck
- Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn’t being treated
- Untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes
- Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible
- Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites
- Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes
- Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails and dirty coat
- Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
- Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
- An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
- Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness
Environmental Signs of Cruelty
- Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary
- Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter
- Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
- Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements
What is Cruelty in South Carolina?
The South Carolina Legislature Title 47 on Animals, Livestock and Poultry currently states the following laws around animal cruelty.
SECTION 47-1-10. Definitions.
(1) “Animal” means a living vertebrate creature except a homo sapien.
(2) “Sustenance” means adequate food provided at suitable intervals of quantities of wholesome foodstuff suitable for the species and age, sufficient to maintain a reasonable level of nutrition to allow for proper growth and weight and adequate water provided with constant access to a supply of clean, fresh, and potable water provided in a suitable manner for the species.
(3) “Shelter” means shelter that reasonably may be expected to protect the animal from physical suffering or impairment of health due to exposure to the elements or adverse weather.
SECTION 47-1-40. Ill-treatment of animals generally; penalties.
(A) A person who knowingly or intentionally overloads, overdrives, overworks, or ill-treats an animal, deprives an animal of necessary sustenance or shelter, inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal, or by omission or commission knowingly or intentionally causes these acts to be done, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be punished by imprisonment not exceeding ninety days or by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or both, for a first offense; or by imprisonment not exceeding two years or by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, or both, for a second or subsequent offense.
(B) A person who tortures, torments, needlessly mutilates, cruelly kills, or inflicts excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal or by omission or commission causes these acts to be done, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be punished by imprisonment of not less than one hundred eighty days and not to exceed five years and by a fine of five thousand dollars.
(C) This section does not apply to fowl, accepted animal husbandry practices of farm operations and the training of animals, the practice of veterinary medicine, agricultural practices, forestry and silvacultural practices, wildlife management practices, or activity authorized by Title 50, including an activity authorized by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources or an exercise designed for training dogs for hunting, if repeated contact with a dog or dogs and another animal does not occur during this training exercise.
SECTION 47-1-70. Abandonment of animals; penalties; hunting dog exception.
(A) A person may not abandon an animal. As used in this section “abandonment” is defined as deserting, forsaking, or intending to give up absolutely an animal without securing another owner or without providing the necessities of life. “Necessities of life” includes:
(1) adequate water which means a constant access to a supply of clean, fresh, and potable water provided in a suitable manner for the species;
(2) adequate food which means provision at suitable intervals of quantities of wholesome foodstuff suitable for the species and age, sufficient to maintain a reasonable level of nutrition to allow for proper growth and weight;
(3) adequate shelter which means shelter that reasonably may be expected to protect the animal from physical suffering or impairment of health due to exposure to the elements or adverse weather.
(B) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than two hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. Offenses under this section must be tried in the magistrate’s or municipal court.
(C) A hunting dog that is positively identifiable in accordance with Section 47-3-510 or Section 47-3-530 is exempt from this section.
How Does South Carolina Rank in Animal Cruelty Laws?
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) works at federal, state and local levels to protect animals. Each year, ALDF publishes its U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report, which assesses the strength of each state’s animal protection laws.
Overall, South Carolina ranked #43, in the bottom tier of states. The four identified main weaknesses in South Carolina animal protection laws are:
- Veterinarians are not required to report suspected animal cruelty
- Definition of “animal” excludes poultry
- No provisions for pre-conviction forfeiture
- No statutory authorization for mental health evaluation or treatment
What Can You do?
1. Who to call
The best chance for intervention in a situation of suspected cruelty is for the witness to call law enforcement. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1.
- Charleston County Animal Control: (843) 743-7200
- Berkeley County Animal Control: (843) 719-4300
- Dorchester County Animal Control: (843) 832-0015
2. Not satisfied with the laws, this is what you can do:
We strongly encourage everyone to reach out to their local and state representatives with any concerns about South Carolina animal protection laws. To find representatives in your area, go to SCStateHouse.gov or click the button below, type in your address and click “Find Legislators”.