If you're a resident dog owner on Isle of Palms and wish to take your dog to the beach or dog park, you're still required to purchase an annual $5 permit by showing proof of up-to-date rabies inoculation signed by a licensed veterinarian. Although if you're a non-resident dog owner then you're not subject to any costs or paperwork.
Last month, Isle of Palms City Council voted unanimously to reject their first reading, in which they previously voted 5-4 in favor of requiring resident and non-resident dog owners to purchase $5 and $10 tags respectively and show physical proof of rabies inoculation. An amendment that council previously appeared to be in favor of has since reversed its logic and backtracked to its original ordinance.
For now, dog business is going back to the way it's always been, nothing will change. Non-residents do not have to obtain a dog permit from the City of Isle of Palms nor show proof of any rabies documentation to Isle of Palms Police Department, only residents will be applicable and held accountable to the current rules and regulations. However, under South Carolina state law, all dogs must have updated vaccinations annually, according to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
"We are not going to have our police department check every dog that comes on Isle of Palms to see if they have a rabies shot," Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll said in response to reinforcement of the ordinance. "It's impossible for our police department to be worrying about dogs. The only time we're going to have a problem is if there's a dog bite someone calls and complains, then we'll go to that person and verify that their dogs have been properly vaccinated."
There is no standard fine for dog owners in violation; it's evaluated on a case-by-case basis. City fines for general violations range between $133 and $1,087 depending on the incident, according to Isle of Palms Interim City Administrator Desiree Fragoso.
"Our police officers have much more important things to do than chasing dogs down," Carroll added. "We've got much bigger problems to worry about than dogs that are already required by the state to have proper vaccination."
Council member Susan Hill Smith, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said she personally doesn't support applying city registration to all dogs who come on the island. However, she does support the ticketing of those who don't have proof of updated rabies inoculation. But Smith's stance to amend the ordinance was not shared by her peers and in part caused council-wide confusion on the language.
"We've allowed this to become so convoluted with discussions of orange collars and everything but what was originally intended," said Randy Bell, council member and vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee. Smith's ideals shared similar sentiment with Sullivan's Island code of conduct for dogs which stems from a collar system to identify dog ownership.
However, Bell and Smith's disagreements from within the committee caused the proposed amendment to fracture over the past nine months and eventually breakdown altogether bringing the dog ordinance back to square one.
"The reality is it should be readdressed," Bell continued. "This particular motion, the lack of support you see here frankly is the way its written. We'd be starting over and frankly, as stated, I don't support what we're trying to do right now. There are a few minor things we could do moving forward, but it's certainly not in the motion as written."
Dog licenses are available for purchase at Isle of Palms Police Department's Public Safety Building, located at 30 J.C. Long Blvd. The Bark Park is located on 29th Avenue behind the Isle of Palms Recreation Center.
From April 1 through Sept. 14, dogs are allowed to be off-leash on Isle of Palms beaches from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. During Sept. 15 through March 31, that time changes from 4 p.m. until 10 a.m. the next day. Dog owners must have leash in hand, have their dog under voice command and must clean up excrement. At all other times, dogs must be on leash and under complete control, even in the water, according to the city's website.