Ask a Lawyer


QUESTION: I know I live in the South but seeing so many dogs riding around in the back of pickup trucks makes me crazy. Is it legal? Can I report it to police when I see it? – Precious Cargo Concerns in North Charleston
DAVID AYLOR: As you know, South Carolina is proudly home to many people that hunt, make a living through agricultural production, or just love the outdoors. Letting an animal ride in the bed of a truck, because it is dirty from being outside participating in those activities, is viewed as the easiest method for transportation. However, as you can imagine, there is a serious risk to the animal’s well- being as speeds increase.

At a state level, South Carolina doesn’t prohibit the transportation of animals in truck beds. However, it may be possible for some unrestrained pet situations to result in an animal abuse or a distracted driving charge. In any case, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pets be secured either by a kennel in the truck bed or by a harness inside the cab. We back this recommendation!

More locally, North Charleston passed such an ordinance in 2006. The ordinance requires that “any animal that is being transported in the bed of a pickup truck shall either be tethered or leashed in such a way that it cannot be ejected or jump out of the vehicle or shall be placed in a kennel-type box which shall be secured to the bed of the vehicle.”

So, if you are in North Charleston and an animal in a truck bed is not tethered or leashed, the driver has broken the law. Statewide, if you feel a driver is distracted or operating in a dangerous manner in relation to their pet’s safety, that driver may have broken the law as well. If you witness a truck operating at high speeds, with shifting loads in the truck bed, or in intense weather conditions, these are some red flags for pet safety. In any similar circumstance, you should report this to the police.

QUESTION: I haven’t traveled because of COVID-19 but am planning to do so after my vaccine. But I saw the recent article in Carolina Tails about airlines cracking down on travel with emotional support animals. I have a MultiPoo that I just can’t fly without. Can I fight back legally? – Need My MultiPoo in Charleston
DAVID AYLOR: It’s great to hear that you are getting vaccinated and are going to travel in a safe manner. Traveling without a loved one is often stressful –pandemic or not – and this has become a big issue nationwide. That said, you might just be in luck!

Few airlines are accepting pets as cargo. Those that do have imposed restrictions on the size of crates, or the number of animals allowed aboard each flight. Airlines that have imposed crate size restrictions typically favor smaller animals, like your MultiPoo. Other airlines have imposed different restrictions: some airlines allow for a carry-on pet, some allow for a pet to travel as cargo, some have banned pet travel all together. The best advice is simply to check in with your airline and confirm details before making any decisions. Things are changing rapidly with the pandemic, and airlines could change their policies at any time.

I should mention that with all the uncertainty surrounding airline travel, pet relocation services have become fairly popular during COVID. These services avoid airlines altogether and will transport your pet (via vehicle) to the location of your choosing. These services are somewhat of a VIP treatment for the pet and give your pet every opportunity to relax and enjoy the ride.

QUESTION: I have three outdoor cats and my neighbor’s dog keeps coming in my yard. I’m worried the dog may attack and injure my cats. What can I do? –Worried in West Ashley.

DAVID AYLOR: Unfortunately, this situation can be quite common. The good news is that laws have been created to protect people in the same situation as you. In Charleston County, it is unlawful for any owner to allow their dog to run “at-large” at any time on properties other than his own property. Allowing an animal to run “at-large” means anytime a dog is off the property and/or premises of the owner and not under physical control by the owner (not on a leash or restraint). Dog owners are compelled to restrain their dogs at all times if the dog is not on their property.

The best advice is to always try to inform your neighbor of the situation and give them a chance to fix the issue. If that fails, document the dog when it comes onto your property again, and immediately report it Animal Control. They will fine the owner, and if the dog continues to roam, it could be seized.