A bill that tramples the rights of animal owners in South Carolina continues to advance. Under House Bill 3682 and Senate Bill 456, an innocent owner could have their animals confiscated based solely on an accusation, and would permanently forfeit ownership of the animals if unable to pay in advance for all costs of seizing and holding their animals throughout a trial process.
House Bill 3682 passed in the SC House of Representatives without a dissenting vote. The House bill now “crosses over” to the Senate where first it will be voted on in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. A similar bill, Senate Bill 456, is assigned to that same Senate committee. The best opportunity to oppose these bad bills is NOW.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY! If South Carolina Senators do not hear from their constituents in opposition to these harmful bills, they will very likely become state law. Here are three steps you can take immediately:
Step 1. Contact the Senators who are members of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (listed below) and respectfully ask them to Vote NO on House Bill 3682 and Senate Bill 456. Begin your message with, “My name is ________, I am a resident of South Carolina, and I strongly oppose House Bill 3682 and Senate Bill 456. I ask you to vote no on these bills.” Please feel free to include additional comments, or just end with, “Thank you.” Scroll down for additional talking points and resources. If you cannot speak directly with the Senator or their staff member, please leave them polite voice mail and email messages. Those messages count! The committee members who will next vote on these bills are:
Senator Wes Climer, email@example.com, (803)212-6230
Senator Mike Fanning, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6108
Senator Stephen Goldfinch, email@example.com, (803)212-6172
Senator Richard Harpootlian, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6148
Senator Michael Johnson, email@example.com, (803)212-6024
Senator Dwight Loftis, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6100
Senator A. Shane Massey, email@example.com, (803)212-6330
Senator J. Thomas McElveen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6132
Senator Mike Reichenbach, email@example.com, (803)212-6016
Senator Ronnie Sabb, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6032
Senator Vernon Stephens, email@example.com, (803)212-6024
Senator Scott Talley, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6048
Senator Daniel Verdin, email@example.com, (803)212-6250
Senator Kent Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6000
Senator Josh Kimbrell, email@example.com, (803)212-6108 (bill sponsor)
Senator Billy Garrett, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6032 (bill sponsor)
Senator Penry Gustafson, email@example.com, (803)212-6040 (bill sponsor)
Step 2. Contact your state Senator, respectfully state that you strongly oppose House Bill 3682 and Senate Bill 456, and ask them to VOTE NO. You can use the same message noted above in Step 1.
To identify your state Senator, click here, enter your address, and look for “Your South Carolina State Senator Is.” Then click on their name for contact information.
Step 3. Involve other animal owners in South Carolina. Help them contact committee members and their Senators to ask them to oppose the bills.
Click here to read AKC’s recent blog on Bond for Care? Animal Forfeiture? Due Process? What does it all mean?
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.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 address disposition of animals confiscated due to alleged cruelty. Under these bills, 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. House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 would delete and replace this current law with troubling provisions.
Under House Bill 3682/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.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 trample 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 House Bill 3682/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. These bills also fail to protect the rights of innocent co-owners of confiscated animals who were not in possession of the animals at the time of confiscation.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 do 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.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 provide 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.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 do 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.
House Bill 3682/Senate Bill 456 do not consider the unintended consequences, including that the bills potentially incentivize 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.
For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.