Update April 24, 2008: It is now clear Sen. Kent Williams may have violated the state and county law.
Sen. Williams, who recently dumped his very pregnant dog at the shelter, claimedÂ he adopted the dog originally from the public shelter but failed to spay her because he wanted to breed her.
But state law requires the spay/neuter of all animals adopted from a public or private shelter. Marion county has a similar requirement.
Violation of the state law can mean a fine from $500 to $1,000 and a jail sentence from 30 to 180 days. Under county law, a violator can be fined up to $100 or sentenced up to 30 days in jail. (Click here for more on state laws requiring spay/neuter of animals adopted from public or private shelters.)
Will the senator face any punishment for this violation? Will he acknowledge the poor example he has set, his cruelty, in dumping his pregnant pet at the public shelter?
One defense Sen. Williams has raised is that he should be able to use the public shelter like anyone else. Is he kidding? Public shelters are not long term boarding kennels or euthanasia facilities for owners tired of their pets. They are there to house homeless, abandoned or abused or neglected animals temporarily until they can be placed for adoption or are euthanized. They are an expense for the taxpayer and, for the most part, a place no one with a conscience would want any animal to be.
Original report: South Carolina state senator Kent Williams admits his pregnant German Shepherd dog "was given to the local [animal] shelter". The dog gave birth 4 days later to 8 puppies. Sen. Williams said the "German Shepherd was given to the local shelter for her own safety". He insists he will "reclaim" the dog if no one else wants her.
When a rescuer called the Marion County Animal Shelter on April 3, however, a worker there denied the dog belonged to the senator. Instead, the worker claimed the dog was a stray.
Why the subterfuge? They should at least get their stories straight, the senator and the shelter. Obviously, no dog is "safe" at a public kill shelter. Shelters are not boarding facilities where animals can be kept and then reclaimed at a later date. Most public shelters keep animals only as long as required by law. In South Carolina it’s 5 days unless there is a pending criminal or civil matter involving the animal. S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-60 There is no obligation on the part of the shelter to find a home for the animal. An owner surrender animal can be euthanized immediately.
Sen. Williams’ actions send exactly the wrong message to pet owners. The idea is for pet owners to be responsible for their animals, to take care of and learn to manage them. It should not be okay to do what is most convenient in dealing with an animal.
Sen. Williams is in a position to help South Carolinian pet owners avoid his mistakes.
What about spay/neuter? His dog obviously was not spayed and now there are 8 puppies that need homes, too. South Carolina does have a provision for organizations to apply for funding for spay/neuter from a specialty No More Homeless Pets license plate. S.C. Code Ann. § 56-3-9600 But it is limited. Sen. Williams could introduce a bill to provide funding for free or low cost spay/neuter programs.
He could introduce a bill mandating spay/neuter for animals picked up more than once in violation of leash or at large laws, dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, dogs owned by felons, and animals sold by pet stores or breeders as pets.
South Carolina already requires animals adopted from public or private shelters or rescues to be spayed/neutered. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 47-3-470-480-490. But the adopter can leave with the animal after agreeing to have it spayed/neutered within 30 days; the adopter must then present evidence the animal has been sterilized. Sen. Williams could make sure all animals adopted from any shelter are spayed/neutered before they leave the premises. (For more on laws concerning spay/neuter requirements for animals adopted from shelters or rescues, click here.)
You may have other ideas about how Sen. Williams can help the animals in his state. Let Animal Law Coalition hear from you. And let Sen. Kent Williams hear from you. Contact him at WILLIAMSK@scsenate.org or (843) 423-3904 or (803) 212-6008. His addresses are 4205 Stirk Place, Marion, S.C. 29571 or 602 Gressette Bldg., Columbia, S.C. 29201