By Greg Oliver
PICKENS — Several Clemson residents appeared before Pickens County Council last week to urge it to address the county’s animal control ordinance they say needs to be strengthened to curb abuse and neglect of animals.
“I’m here to ask you to fix a problem we here in Pickens County all share,” Susan Robinette said. “Although we have an animal control ordinance, animals here continue to suffer starvation, chaining, cruelty, neglect and abandonment. The ordinance needs to be strengthened with the addition of specific fines and penalties for violations, and then it needs to be enforced.”
Robinette added she had received information that in the last two weeks alone there had been major violations. One involved a teenager attacked by a pit bull while walking his dog, with his dog injured in the attack. She said the teen is afraid to press charges, and the dog remains free.
“The next time it could be a child,” Robinette said, adding that six dogs have also been found at the point of starvation and that the problem continued for another year after being reported to animal control in 2020.
Robinette said the county animal control ordinance “seems rather useless in light of the abuses taking place.” While admitting county council doesn’t enforce the ordinance, she added that it does control and write the ordinance and has the ability to strengthen it.
“You can’t just wash your hands of it because enforcement is not your area of concern — you live here, too,” she said. “If abusers can count on being fined or penalized or lose their animals, they will change their behavior.”
Elaine Masceri agreed.
“One of the main reasons that cases fall apart in court is that they lack specificity,” Masceri said. “For example, abandonment does not address how many days an animal has to be left alone before it is considered to be abandoned. This also applies to animal care and is a legal loophole that can be easily argued in court. Put a time limit on it.”
Masceri added that if county council members care about the laws they pass, they should care about whether or not they are enforced.
“Otherwise, it’s an exercise in futility and a waste of taxpayer money,” she said.
Margaret Thompson, a retired Pickens County Sheriff’s Office deputy and founder of Clemson Paw Partners, which will be opening up in Central, said six dogs were recently sent to her that appeared to be starving.
“The same person that reported them reported them last January 2020 to animal control,” Thompson said. “So between January 2020 to this year, were they checked on? I don’t have a clue — that’s up to the sheriff’s office.”
Thompson said she talked to an animal control officer in Anderson County who said those responsible should have been charged.
“I’m tired of it — they need to start slapping these people and putting them in jail and putting fines on them,” she said.
One suggestion made by Thompson was the formation of a committee of citizens, shelter workers, animal control and a county council representative to come up with solutions “so we don’t have to keep coming back here and saying, ‘Do something.’”
“I hope you take it seriously,” Thompson said.
County administrator Ken Roper said he will investigate complaints. But Roper added the shelter has taken in 89 animals, with a 96 percent “save” rate, with 16 adoptions and 46 that went to rescue partners. The remaining 27 were returned to their owners.
In addition, Roper said the county has published community vouchers enabling people to go and have their pets spayed or neutered. Of the 47 vouchers distributed, he said 37 were redeemed.
“That program, which is more of a pilot program when the budget allows us, has been successful,” he said.
Roper added options are very limited since enforcement falls upon the sheriff’s office elected by the voters.
“Department heads met concerning codes and where the breaks in the armor were, and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office attended as well,” Roper said. “We’re waiting for recommendations to come out of that, and it’s something we’re concerned about, too.”
County council unanimously approved a recommendation from vice chairman Roy Costner III to forward the matter to the Committee of the Whole. The committee will look at sections of the ordinance that can be strengthened, as well as providing restitution to animal rescuers.
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