Public service announcement: South Carolina animal welfare

Posted January 12, 2019 by Denise Lane Painter

Intro by Elisa: This article by animal advocate Denise Lane Painter is the newest in the Reader’s Forum series. While this article focuses on South Carolina, all states have similar animal laws. You need to make yourself familiar with the laws in your state or you could end up in legal trouble.


It is always a very dangerous thing not to know the laws that affect you, your family, and your home. It is dangerous to you, and to those around you. Not knowing the law can cause you to lose your loved ones, your children, your property, and even your life. These laws include laws about companion animals.

In South Carolina, if you feed an animal for three days, it is considered your personal property. This includes strays.

In South Carolina, if your animal is injured or sick, you are required to get it medical help. If you do not, this is considered animal neglect. You can be charged with animal neglect. This is a criminal offense, punishable by fines and even jail time.

In South Carolina, free-roaming animals are not allowed. It is your responsibility to make sure that all of your animals are confined and do not freely roam – even in the country or rural areas. If your animal roams onto your neighbor’s property and does damage, you are responsible for that damage. You can be forced to pay for damages. You can even be fined or go to jail.

All dogs and cats in South Carolina are required to be inoculated for rabies and to wear a tag.

If you know that your pet has a deadly contagious virus and you do not take steps to contain your pet, any pets your pet infects are your responsibility. This means that your neighbors can hold you responsible if your pet infected their pet, including vet bills and even compensation because they had to have the pet euthanized.

There are many deadly diseases that pets can carry. Getting your cat or dog inoculated with the proper vaccinations will prevent them from spreading these diseases. Also, when you find a stray or bring a new pet into your home, it is your responsibility to have them tested for deadly diseases so that they don’t spread anything to the pets you already have or your neighbor’s pets. In some jurisdictions, preventative vaccines for deadly diseases are required by law.

And last, if you truly care about your pets, get them microchipped. Microchipping can save you a lot of grief in the long run. It’s not a legal requirement, but it is good common sense for the responsible pet owner – even indoor cats and dogs. Because indoor cats and dogs get outdoors.

For the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) crowd, I’ll summarize:

1. It is your responsibility to control where your pet goes. Free roaming outside is not legal in South Carolina, and you can be fined for this, and held responsible for any damage your pet does to other pets or property. This includes injuring or sickening the pets of others.

2. If you feed an animal for three days, in South Carolina it is legally yours.

3. If you have an animal that is sick or injured and you do not get it medical help, you can be charged with animal neglect, a crime.

4. In South Carolina, all pets must have up to date rabies vaccinations. In some jurisdictions, other vaccinations are also required.

Most municipality laws are located online. If you can’t find yours, call your local county, city, or town administration and ask them to mail or email you a copy.

State laws are located online.

Educate yourself.

Denise Lane Painter

Denise is the co-founder of Dot’s Place Animal Haven in upstate SC.

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