State Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, is looking to streamline animal cruelty laws and stiffen penalties for offenders.
Verdin's bill S193 would increase the penalties for misdemeanor offenses and eliminate the tiered penalty system. Verdin's bill would also give law enforcement the ability to force suspected animal abusers to pay for the care of the animals they've hurt.
Greenville animal rights advocate Cynthia Saracino said she wishes the penalties were even stiffer but says she is glad something is being done.
Saracino said the recent case of Andra Grace, the dog who was dragged behind a truck in Greenville County, spotlighted the need for reforming the state's laws.
"It exposed animal cruelty in the state to an extreme that it hadn't been exposed before," Saracino said.
Roger Owens, of Marietta, was initially charged with a misdemeanor in the Andra Grace case but with the help of 13th circuit solicitor Walt Wilkins the charge was upgraded to a felony.
Wilkins said he supports tougher animal cruelty laws.
"Everybody that I talked to is for a super strong animal cruelty bill. I certainly wouldn't have any opposition to it," Wilkins said.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, South Carolina ranks 46th in terms of their animal protection laws.
Wayne Brennessel with the Humane Society of Columbia says crimes against animals are on the rise and he hopes Verdin's bill, which passed the Senate 42-0, will makes its way through the House and to the governor's desk quickly.
"I think it sends the message that the state of South Carolina isn't going to tolerate people purposely, willfully, hurting animals," said Brennessel.
Verdin's bill is currently being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee.
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