On Wednesday, March 22, 2023, the South Carolina Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee is scheduled to again vote on Senate Bill 456, a bill that would trample the due process rights of animal owners. Under this bill, an innocent owner would permanently forfeit their animals based on an accusation—including an accusation against another person—if unable to pay for the costs of seizing and holding the animals throughout the entire confiscation and trial process.
After issues with the bill were identified by the full Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, S.456 was returned to the subcommittee for additional consideration. This gives animal owners another opportunity to state their strong opposition and help stop the bill from advancing. The subcommittee meets at 10:00am on Wednesday and this bill is currently the only item on the agenda.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY! All animal owners in South Carolina are urged to immediately contact each subcommittee member listed below and respectfully ask them Vote NO on S.456.
Your email or phone message should begin with, “My name is _________, I am a resident of South Carolina, and I strongly oppose Senate Bill 456. I ask you to vote no on S.456.” You can include additional comments, or just end with, “Thank you.” You do not need to speak directly to a staff member—brief, polite voice mail messages and email messages count! Scroll down to view talking points and resources.
Please note, one of the subcommittee members is a sponsor of S.456 and certain others previously took action in favor of the bill. Therefore, make sure ALL subcommittee members know you strongly oppose S.456.
Subcommittee Contact Information:
Senator Michael Johnson, Subcommittee Chair
Senator Billy Garrett (sponsor, S.456)
Senator Stephen Goldfinch
Senator Richard Harpootlian
Senator J. Thomas McElveen
Senate Bill 456 addresses disposition of animals confiscated due to alleged cruelty. Under this bill, a court would be required to order an animal owner to pay the costs of seizure and costs of care for their confiscated animals throughout the trial process. If unable to pay, the owner would permanently forfeit ownership of their animals, even if the owner is not the person charged with a crime, and even if no person is ever found guilty. An innocent owner would bear all costs of impoundment from date of seizure through the verdict.
Under current South Carolina law, an owner convicted of cruelty can be required to pay costs of care for impounded animals. This is reasonable. Senate Bill 456, however, would delete and replace this current law with troubling provisions.
Under Senate Bill 456, an owner could permanently lose their animals absent any finding of guilt. The bill provides for the permanent forfeiture of seized animals by operation of law if the owner is unable to pay assessed costs of care throughout proceedings. Forfeiture for lack of payment would also occur in cases where the person accused of a cruelty offense is ultimately found not guilty or charges are dropped.
Senate Bill 456 tramples the due process rights of animal owners. It would require a court to order an animal owner to pay costs of care for confiscated animals based on a determination explicitly limited to whether seizure of the animals was authorized. As long as that minimal requirement is met, a court would be mandated to require payment by the animal owner of amounts sufficient to cover costs of the seizure and care for the confiscated animal from seizure date and continuing through all processes that follow.
Under Senate Bill 456, the owner of confiscated animals has to pay, even if the owner is not accused of an offense. For example, if animals were confiscated because of an accusation against an animal caretaker, such as a stable worker, trainer, boarding kennel operator, etc., it would be the owner who must pay costs of care. S.456 also fails to adequately protect the rights of innocent co-owners of confiscated animals who were not in possession of the animals at the time of confiscation.
Senate Bill 456 does not allow a court to consider an animal owner’s ability to pay for costs of care. An inability to pay would result in permanent forfeiture of the animals, which would raise procedural due process concerns.
Senate Bill 456 provides no caps on the costs that an animal owner would be required to pay while animals remain confiscated. Costs should be limited to the costs related to the direct care of the animals.
Senate Bill 456 does not prohibit elective, non-therapeutic procedures or surgeries (such as spay/neuter) from being performed on seized animals. No permanent alteration of confiscated animals should be performed without the owner’s written consent.
Senate Bill 456 does not consider the unintended consequences of S.456, including that the bill potentially incentivizes animal sheltering organizations to promote confiscations of animals. Such confiscations could be authorized by a magistrate in response to a third-party complaint. The sheltering organization then could—and likely would—receive the confiscated animals, and a court would be mandated to require costs of care be paid to the sheltering organization by the animal owner, absent any criminal charges, a determination of probable cause that a crime occurred, or a finding of guilt against the animal owner or any other person. Consequently, even if no person is found guilty, the sheltering organization would receive uncapped costs of care, and if the owner cannot keep up payments, be awarded ownership of the animals to be sold/adopted for additional fees.
Click here to read AKC’s Due Process Protections for Dog Owners position statement.
Click here to view a brief animated explainer video on “cost of care” legislation.
Click here to view talking points in AKC’s one-page flyer on “cost of care” legislation.
For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.