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For many pet lovers the issue of a license to own a pet has always been felt as a financial attack for simply owning a pet, whom most times is a loving member of the family.

In Richland County an ordinance exits that is unknown to many within the county. This ordinance (not State Law) requires an individual to apply and pay for a license in order to own the pet within Richland County. The Penalty for not having this license is $500 or 30 days in jail. The cost of the license depends on if your pet is neutered or not: a neutered pet license is only $4.21 a year and a fertile pet (non-neutered) is $21.07 a year.

In some cases a non-neutered pet license can be charged the $4.21 fee if its a hunting animal, show animal or there are existing medical conditions on why the animal can not be neutered. In all these exemptions proper documentation is required to be submitted, including the animals current rabies vaccinations.

Support Animals are exempt from either fee with the proper documentation, but must still show the current rabies vaccination.

On the Richland County Government webpage the benefits of this license are listed as thus:

  • A pet license identifies and protects your dog or cat in case they get lost.
  • A pet wearing a County tag lets the Animal Care Officer know that this dog or cat belongs to someone.
  • A pet license ensures that animals are vaccinated against rabies.
  • The County staff will notify you immediately to redeem your pet.
  • Your pet will get a longer care period.
  • Found pets can be reunited quickly with their owner.

For most pet owners these benefits are already covered in most cases with other low cost or free services available online today, such as Fidotabby.com.

The first two benefits can be combined by having your pet chipped or you can pay a low one time fee from several organizations with owner information.

The Third benefit is already covered by your rabbis tag given to you when you have your animal vaccinated.

The last 3 benefits are also covered by a chip and other tags.

Many pet owners feel that this sort of ordnance is simply a way for the county to make a buck off of pet owners and violate their rights. It’s also important to know that this ordinance has been around for approximately 30 years. And currently requires every dog and cat owner to apply for said license or face the fines and possible jail time for simply owning a loving pet.

It’s also noteworthy that Richland County has what is called an Animal Care Unit, located at 400 Powell Road, Columbia. Which is charged with the licensing and care of these pets within Richland County. If that sounds familiar, then it should, it is what Animal Control does along with the recovery of strays or lost animals within Richland County.

The Animal Advisory Committee for Richland County Animal Care Unit is a Veterinarian, Dr. Tracy Wales (owner of Fur Paws Clinic) and Nicole Howland (attorney/inventor who dealt with primarily Domestic Violence) from Winnsboro, South Carolina. Both were appointed on May 3rd, 2016 with no term limit set.

It is important to understand that local ordinances such as this are not State Law, and can be challenged for their Constitutionality just as State Laws can. Many court cases exist where local ordinances have been declared unconstitutional. Another thing noticed in our investigation was that depending on which County or City website you go to within Richland County the fees vary as well. On the Columbia Government website the fees are stated to be higher than on the County website mentioned above. And within the Ordinance itself the fees are stated as only being $4 and $21. So, why the difference in prices?

We contacted all members of the current Richland County Council to seek their opinion on this ordinance and were directed to the County Attorney and County Administrator, by Councilman Overture Walker.

It would be assumable that the current County Council members are unaware of this ordinance as are members of the public, as it is 30 years old and had no real publicity to bring the publics awareness of it. Many states and local government entities have refused to pass such ordinances as they are nearly impossible to enforce, without going door to door and asking for the license to ensure the publics compliance.

Another aspect of this ordinance is that if you do not have this pet license and are in possession of a dog or cat, then you are considered to simply be in possession of strays, which can be retrieved by Animal Care or Animal Control at their will. But in most cases you will first get a notice to apply for the license and will be given 30 days to comply.

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