WJBF EXTRA: South Carolina Animal Protection Laws Don't Stack Up - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: South Carolina Animal Protection Laws Don't Stack Up Against Georgia's

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By Ashley Bridges

“Every bone in her body was poking out of her skin she was starved, dehydrated, and sunburned all over." 15:06:39 They had to literally pick her up and put her in a trailer, she couldn't walk on the trailer herself,” says Terri Spragg, describing her horse Larken.

Seeing photographs of Larken, it is hard to believe the horse is still alive.

“We're put on this Earth to do good, and if we can't do good, don't do no harm,” says Jim Rhodes, of Aiken Equine Rescue.

Someone did harm Larken: She was near death when she was picked up off a South Carolina road.

"I've said before, I absolutely love South Carolina,” says Rhodes. “I think it's a wonderful state, and couldn't imagine living anywhere else, but it's an embarrassment we're ranked 48th in animal abuse. That's not right."

Drive a couple of minutes and you cross the line into Georgia, where laws are ranked in the top half of the country for protecting animals.

“Is it perfect? No,” says Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, “but it's a model we're pleased with to help do right by all the folks that are passionate about this issue."

Georgia protects its animals by requiring any breeder, shelter, or rescue to have a license issued by Animal Protection.  19 inspectors employed by the state then travel across Georgia to ensure that those licensed are providing humane care.

“Our strength is not playing the gotcha card,” Black says. “We have an understanding of business and strong animal protection."

South Carolina does not currently have these safeguards.

"I don't think this is about South Carolina, this is about animals,” says South Carolina Representative Bill Taylor.

Taylor represents South Carolina House District 86; he says South Carolina’s animal laws do need to change.

"If South Carolina is suffering from an image problem, so be it,” he says.  “The issue is animals and being sure they aren't being mistreated."

Rhodes could not agree more.  He is frustrated that South Carolina has been thrust into the national spotlight for these shortcomings.

"State laws are lax,” Rhodes says.  “They might have a tougher county laws, but until we have state laws that make it tougher to do these things; we don't need national organizations doing what we should be doing, policing our problems."

Taylor says policing within the state should get stronger.

"I foresee felony charges with serious criminal penalties for abusing animals,” he says. “Once that's done and convicted, they are inspected very closely."

Taylor’s vision isn’t enough on its own: Representatives must have a few friends to pass reforms. Specifically, Taylor would need 62 other votes to pass a bill in a full house.

"Every one of these 63 just need to take a day trip. If it's not an eye-opener, you're not one of the 63,” says Rhodes.

And while Larken has found a home and doesn’t need those 63, there are many more like her who do.

"They all have personalities and they all have feelings and they're not just an inanimate object. They need love,” says Spragg.

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