Let’em Live Upstate has reached out to our state and local officials regarding their stance on animal welfare in Greenville County. Below, we have listed the questions we have asked each group and their response, or lack of response to the subject matter.
South Carolina State Senate/House
Danny Verdin – Thanks for your e-mail… and thanks for your interest in the process of improving animal welfare in this state. I supported S. 680 (cost of care) and H. 3343 (euthanasia) and they received approval from the Senate. H. 3343 subsequently has been signed into law by the Governor and, as of this writing, S. 680 appears to be on its way, as well.
As for S. 687, it did not progress after committee approval, however, it served as a precursor to an amended version of S. 980. That is a bill I also support and it, also, appears to have consensus with strong probability to become law. Because of these bills and the attendant debate around them, great progress has been made regarding animal welfare, specifically, our ability, as a state, to leverage the resources of traditional veterinary medicine, as well as shelter medicine, to provide for the needs of pets and their owners.
Again, thank you for your correspondence. Feel free to contact me at any time.
From what I understand and from my experience as a former prosecutor, this bill was probably meant to address long-standing problems that shelters have in having to hold animals that are part of criminal cases until the cases are adjudicated, which takes up space and precipitates other animals being euthanized when space is tight, as well as eating up tons of money for food, medicines, and upkeep. Animals that are seized and held don’t come only from abuse cases — they could be animals seized, too, in drug raids and/or other criminal activity. Given the length of time it takes to get cases into court to prosecute, the seized animals are clogging up tight space at the shelter. It is a very common problem for other animals that come into a shelter to be euthanized without much chance of getting seen and adopted by the public, because the shelters can’t release the seized animals needed for evidence, and there isn’t enough room to house them all.
I would think that the intent of this bill was to recoup the enormous expenses of holding these animals for so long, especially when the penalties in SC are weak and some judges can be very lenient on punishment, hardly ever asking defendants to compensate shelters or rescue groups for the cost of keeping the animals.
I was told about a recent example, where a Greenville County man was arrested for puppy milling a couple of years ago. His animals were in atrocious condition, and more than 120 of them were brought into the shelter. Some were in such bad shape that they died immediately or were euthanized; the ones who survived were so sickly that the shelter spent over $30,000 to treat and house the animals (in the meantime, otherhealthy animals hadto euthanized in the shelter in order to make space for the puppy mill dogs). The puppy miller went to court, the judge fined him a few thousand dollars, but the county shelter was not compensated, and a number of animals had to be euthanized in order to accommodate the puppy mill animals. Weak laws, law enforcement that may not feel comfortable charging to the max, prosecutors who may not prosecute to max, judges who are hamstrung by weak penalties prescribed by law, but who also often don’t mete out harsh enough penalties that act as deterrents, etc., are breaking the backs of the caregivers for the seized animals. Animal advocates argue for stricter local ordinances and state laws not only for humanity’s sake, but, also because of bottom line. It’s a financial strain on governments and non-profits that are eating the costs, and the defendants are getting off practically scot-free.
S687 — Mobile vet clinics, etc.
From what I have gathered, this has been a controversial bill, especially as originally drafted from the perspective of animal advocates – it basically limited all government and non-profit shelters from providing vet services, including spay/neuter, and it required that any adopter be required to take the animal to a vet practice for check-up, shots, etc. within a week or two (with a requirement that shelters manage documentation that this has happened). This would have been a nightmare, because many adopters will not take their adopted animals to vet practices for spay/neuter, and shelters would not have been able to manage such record-keeping. Animal advocates feared this would perpetuate the overpopulation problem for which shelters and rescue organizations bear the burden.
Due to pushback from animal activists and local government shelters, including the Greenville County shelter, compromise language was put in place, dropping some of the tougher provisions. But it is still seeking to limit animal shelter aftr-care to low-income residents and to not allowing mobile vet clinics within seven miles of an established vet practice.
I understand the bill’s sponsor will come back strong next year under the affirmation that this is in best interest of animals. However, it seems as if there is an attempt to seek protection from “competition” for one class of business (why should other businesses see this and not ask for the same thing?), and detractors see this as more of a money issue for veterinarians. I have concerns about the bill because of the competition question, but I also have concerns about the implication being madeby supporters of this bill that animal protection groups, local shelters, and rescue groups are not providing optimum care. If re-introduced, the Legislature should carefully study these concerns.
H3343 — Outlawing carbon monoxide and other identified euthanasia methods as inhumane
Though there are no known shelters in SC that use gas chambers to kill animals, there are some NC shelters that still use it. This bill, which has been sent to the Governor for her signature, sought to ensure that no counties use either this method or “heartstick.” Both are tortuous ways to kill animals that many small, underfunded shelters around the nation employ. The bill also clarifies that a shelter can’t shoot dogs as a form of euthanasia, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. This bill also mandates what should be used as a form of humane euthanasia and ensures that a vet or a tech trained in euthanasia perform the procedure.
However, let’s focus on the problems at the heart of the matter and how to fix them.
- Lack of education and commitment to spay/neuter and other animal welfare issues in this state, which contributes to our great overpopulation and large euthanasia numbers. We still possess a culture here that animals are just property, and people can do whatever they want with them…..which means overbreeding, puppy mills, dog fighting, etc. Other states have stricter laws and different mindsets about animals, and, therefore, they don’t suffer with the numbers of abused, neglected, and abandoned animals that we have in SC. Education for the public is a huge component of tackling this problem.
- Lack of adequate funding for shelters by local governments. Care of animals usually falls low on the totem pole behind infrastructure, economic development, and other needs funded by cities and counties. If funding is an issue that cannot be addressed as desired, government shelters should be creative in seeking partnerships within the community for alternative initiatives and programs that alleviate the need for euthanasia as a means of controlling the animal population.
- Exceptionally weak local ordinances and state laws regarding animal welfare (nationwide, SC is considered to have some of the weakest animal welfare statutes and practices in the entire country). This contributes to a revolving door — dog fighting and the plethora of beaten, starved, non-socialized pit bulls we have dumped on us; puppy millers who get light slaps on the hand and then go right back to it, with shelters eating the costs for caring for the unhealthy animals; etc. Often, abusers of animals are into other criminal activities, including abuse of people, drug activity, etc. Therefore, it’s important that we recognize the gravity of animal abuse, which is often symptomatic of even bigger issues by perpetrators.
Bottom line: We need to be seeking more funding and alternative solutions for shelters; tougher penalties for abuse, neglect, abandonment; and, illuminating to public officials and citizens the true costs of not doing these things.
Greenville County Sheriff Candidates
While I am a pet owner, 6 month old Boykin Spaniel “Lucca” and strong advocate for animal welfare I must admit to not knowing enough about this issue. So, I took some time to do a little research and ask some experts in this field. I was referred by a friend to animal expert Teoti Anderson, a published author of five dog training books and former President of the National Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). If elected I would contact her to conduct training for our deputies as she has done in other areas of the state. Our deputies should be better informed and equipped with the tools to deescalate these situations. I would also leverage some of the information from the Department of Justice COPS office to provide reference material which could be included in our field training program. I would ensure that we look at best practices from other law enforcement agencies such as the video training series produced by the National Canine Research Council, in conjuction with the Chicago Police Department called “Police & Dog Encounters: Tactical Strategies and Effective Tools to Keep Our Communities Safe and Humane.” The goal of the series doesn’t attempt to make police officers dog experts, but the goal is to instead introduce options and strategies to deescalate encounters with dogs so that officers and family pets are kept safe.
Greenville County Council Candidates
Let’em Live Upstate has been communicating to current council members the necessity for citizen’s advisory committee to address our animal welfare issues and draft a no kill implementation plan for Greenville County. Even with ample education that our concerns are legitimate and abundant examples of successful committee models, our requests have been continually ignored for over a year.
Mike Barnes – I want to thank you again for this opportunity. I have 2 German Shepherds that are 8 years old. My family and I love animals, especially large breed dogs. It is important for the animals in our community to have an advocate such as yourself and team to promote awareness and safety. Below I have provided my thoughts on the questions you sent to me via facebook.
As a Greenville County Councilor, I would first open the line of discussion with Let’em Live Upstate and other organizations to address the issues of animal cruelty, unnecessary killings, and how we can further advance the overall treatment of animals within our jurisdiction. I believe before anything can be done, allowing a discussion to take place with experts in the field is of utmost importance, and I pledge to always be accessible to your members. I would be in favor of supporting programs that allow for more pets to be spayed and neutered, but even more exciting to me, programs that encourage adoptions at our shelters. Along with these things, I would certainly entertain the idea of creating a citizens advisory council, because experts in the field would be able to offer critical knowledge and advice for councilors to make decisions on.I will investigate further these issues, and would encourage any of your members to contact me directly to discuss.
I have attached the following photo of a cat that my family saved via adoption last year. His name is Forrest!
Stacy Kuper – While I am not an expert when it comes to all animal welfare issues, I am a pet owner and lover. I would like to spend some time with you and learn more.
I strongly support efforts to cut down on the killing of animals in our community when so much can be done to educate our citizens and reduce the need for the killing. As a Council member, I would advocate for an advisory committee made up of knowledgeable citizens to help guide Greenville County’s efforts in this area. We need to make sure we are balancing the humane treatment of animals with the tax dollars being spent and maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of this department. I believe there is strong support for animals in our community and as a Council member, I would work with groups such as Let’em Live Upstate to address these important matters.