Horry County considers stiff new penalties to protect animals

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Horry County Officials may be looking to crack down on animal abuse and provide aid to stray animals.

The Horry County Public Safety Department is currently reviewing plans to create stiffer penalties for people convicted of animal abuse crimes, as well as better defining proper animal care.

County Spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said the goal of the proposed law change is to make sure people know what it means to provide adequate food, shelter and water for domesticated animals.

"The County is...just trying to better define our definitions," Bourcier explained.  "And [also] trying to put in a little heavier penalties as well."

One of the penalties would include the possibility of prohibiting convicted animal abusers from owning a domesticated animal for up to two years.

Conway resident Bobby McDowell, a self proclaimed animal lover, says he believes the county's rules on animal care are vague and in dire need of an update.

"[The ordinance] has no meat, no backbone to it," he stressed. "Which means our [animal control] officers can't do their jobs."

Other ideas being considered by the Public Safety Committee are the prohibition of animal hoarding, creating a low cost spay and neuter program, creating a catch and release spay and neuter plan for stray animals, and requiring all pet owners to implant their pets with I.D. microchips.

Bob Bonsigner, President of the "Sav-R-Cats" animal advocacy group, said he is particularly pleased with the catch and release spay and neuter program, one he is helping county officials develop.

"The trap, neuter, return program...we find very essential to the reduction of the population of [stray] cats," Bonsigner explained.

The County Public Safety Committee will discuss the proposed changes to the county animal ordinance during their next meeting on Feb. 16, and will likely make a recommendation to the Horry County Council to move or not move forward with the plan.

However the county proceeds, McDowell says he believes something needs to be done.

"Regardless of your religious beliefs, we are here to take care of [animals], just like we are here to take care of each other," McDowell said.

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