COLUMBIA — The sometimes malicious dispute about hunting dogs running loose edged closer to a resolution Wednesday, when lawmakers agreed to advance a tougher law against vandals.
At issue before a South Carolina Senate panel was how to punish people who remove or destroy the electronic collar or device a hunter has placed on a hunting dog. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee approved the bill, H. 3372, to make it a misdemeanor amid questions about the problem it targets.
Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, the bill’s sponsor, said he was told by a colleague about a Myrtle Beach man who prides himself on removing hunting dogs’ electronic collars, placing the devices in plastic bags and floating them down a river. The dog owners chase the signal, thinking they are drawing closer to their missing dogs.
Hixon also pointed to an open case in the Upstate, in which a man killed another man’s dog, chopped up its electronic collar and buried the pieces in a tree stump. Authorities charged the man with killing the dog but had no recourse against his destruction of the animal’s collar.
Under Hixon’s bill, the penalty for a first-time offender would be a $500 fine or up to 10 days in jail. On Wednesday, the Senate subcommittee sent the bill – and an amendment that would require hunters to put contact information on their dogs’ collars – to the full committee to vote on each piece.
Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, suggested dogs wear colored blankets to show which hunting club they belong to. But Hixon said the cloth would be ripped by thorny vegetation. Knotts wondered whether people would remove a dog’s $700 electronic collar to sell. Hixon acknowledged it could be done.
“Every year we’ve got dog problems bringing both sides up here,” said Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Williamsburg. “We need to bring this thing to a halt.”
The issue is separate but related to state trespass laws that were tightened because of hunters’ transgressions. In 2010, lawmakers passed the Renegade Hunter Act to crack down on violations to private property by both hunters and their dogs.