Gov. Henry McMaster signs anti-animal cruelty law, but advocates say their job is not done

Thursday, August 08, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Governor McMaster signed a bill protecting animals Thursday. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – Gov. Henry McMaster was in Aiken this morning as he signed a bill against animal cruelty.

It allows for vets to come in from other states to assist after natural disasters, requires magistrate and municipal judges to be trained for animal cruelty cases, and it makes abusers pay civil cost of care for animals too.

McMaster says this law is to protect animals across the state.

"You want to be a good neighbor. You want to be your brother's keeper. You want to help people particularly those who cannot help themselves. That certainly reflects on these animals we love so much,” McMaster said. “This is a great step forward."

Advocates have been working for years to strengthen South Carolina's animal cruelty laws. They say today's signing is a relief.

“We'd rather move forward in baby steps than not move forward at all,” said Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral, SC State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Those baby steps they've been fighting years for. Now abusers can be held accountable financially.

“It does two things: it removes the burden of paying for those animals from nonprofits and from taxpayers. It also puts the burden back on the people who allegedly abused the animal to be responsible for the damage they did,” Gilmore-Futeral said.

It's a big deal for Robin Mitchell, who runs Save the Chain Dogs in Aiken County. She spent her own money to get rescue puppy Trent back to health.

"It just helps us not to continue to spend funds and donations and not see them come back in,” Mitchell said.

But she says more needs to be done. Lawmakers removed three provisions from the bill, including humane tethering.

"Tethering was taken out because it needs to be analyzed a lot more and a little more specific when a tethering ordinance is passed,” Mitchell said.

They also took out higher standards for shelters, but Mitchell says they'll keep fighting.

"So that animals can be safe within the shelters across the state and not be neglected there as well,” Mitchell said.

Advocates say this law is only the beginning.

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