Best of “Ask the Lawyer”

Charleston is mourning the loss of well-known attorney David Aylor who passed away at his home on January 2nd, 2023, at the age of 41. For four years (2016 – 2022), David never missed an issue of our Carolina Tails magazine with his “Ask a Lawyer” column. He made it a point to share sound legal advice regarding pets with our readers in every issue. Here is a look back at some of the best questions and answers David has provided. Our most sincere condolences to David’s family and friends who miss him dearly, as does Charleston Animal Society.

QUESTION: I have a friend who has a very cute, small dog. I don’t want to describe the dog, because I don’t want my friend to know I’m writing this. My friend basically went online and registered her dog as a “service animal” even though she doesn’t have any medical or emotional problems. She did it so she can take her dog into restaurants and go shopping! I’m worried my friend is breaking the law, but don’t want to say anything until I’m sure. What is your advice? Can she be fined or sent to jail?  — Dawn, West Ashley

DAVID AYLOR: Dawn, I’ve actually heard of people doing this in the past which is very disappointing. While I do not think she would go to jail, I definitely think she could face fines. Beyond that, she is creating a civil liability for herself as well if the dog was to injure someone while inside an establishment under the false premise of a service animal.

QUESTION: Is there a leash law for cats in North Charleston? My friend says she was stopped and told she had to put her cat on a leash, unless it was “ear-tipped.” Any scoop? –”No Leash” Lisa, North Charleston

DAVID AYLOR: Lisa, yes, there is a cat leash ordinance in North Charleston, and in fact, many other area municipalities have similar laws on the books. While usually not enforced, animal control officials can give you a ticket for a cat on the run. We’re told that you will likely get a warning before any ticket. (Feral or free-roaming cats which are “ear tipped,” signifying they have been spayed or neutered, are typically exempt from enforcement).

But, the law is the law, and in North Charleston your cat must technically be on a leash if outdoors. Typically, your cat will only gain the notice of animal control if there are complaints from a neighbor, or if your cat is continuously getting into trouble around the block. Getting cited is no laughing matter. You could end up with a fine of $1,092 or spend 30 days in jail! If you are stopped, remember to be polite and respectful and make your case in court — not on the street, where your anger could work against you.

QUESTION: My dog was bitten on the ear by another dog. The vet fees are astronomical. What can I do? – Mark, Mount Pleasant

DAVID AYLOR: Mark, if the dog bite occurred on public property you can still recover. But depending on the circumstances, it could be more difficult. Your recovery would come from the owner’s insurance policy. If the injury occurred at his home, you more than likely could recover from his homeowner’s policy. If all else fails, you could take the owner to small claims court for the damages.

QUESTION: My dog chases cats and recently he nearly had a run-in with a cat from down the street that cut through our yard. If my dog hurts a cat on our property, who is liable for the cat’s injuries? – Mark, Mount Pleasant

DAVID AYLOR: Mark, you will likely not be responsible for the cat’s injuries as the cat would be trespassing on your property. Many municipalities, including Charleston, prohibit animals from running at large. Specifically, Charleston Municipal Code

Sec. 5-4 states that no person owning in possession of an animal shall allow the animal to stray or in any manner to run at large in or upon the property of another, if such animal is not under physical restraint or a leash so as to allow the animal to be controlled.

By allowing the cat to roam freely, your neighbor runs the risk of this type of incident occurring and furthermore is in violation of the local restraint laws, which impose penalties for non-compliance.