CHARLESTON COUNTY’S NEW SHERIFF, Kristin Graziano, brings her dog Isabella to work with her every day. In office since January, Graziano is Charleston County’s first new sheriff in 32 years, having defeated Al Cannon in the November election. Graziano recently sat down one-on-one with Carolina Tails to talk about the sheriff’s role in protecting animals.
Carolina Tails: Tell us about your pets. Sheriff Kristin Graziano: This is Isabella. She’s 12 years old and the only girl I ever had. She is a Shih Tzu. There is a great story on how we got her, but that’s for my wife to tell, because how we got her was really endearing. The best thing about her is when you come home or you walk in the door — when she sees me, she picks up a toy. She comes to me and her whole body’s wagging and it’s just joy, just pure joy. You know animals do that to people. My son is a sophomore in college and he recently got a cat. This weekend I went not to visit my son, but to visit my “grand cat.”
Carolina Tails: Our community has seen an unprecedented amount of animal cruelty in the last three months. We all want to end animal cruelty, but what do you see as the role of the sheriff in making that happen?
Sheriff Kristin Graziano: Animals are our responsibility. When it comes to abuse and neglect of an animal, it’s the same thing as with a child abuse case. Animal abuse could be an indicator that something else is going on in the house. Our Animal Control Officers are Sheriff’s Deputies and they have the ability to investigate, arrest, charge and bring to punishment any person responsible for the abuse of an animal. They understand the system. We have four full-time animal control officers and a supervisor, and sometimes it’s not enough.
Carolina Tails: Recently a dog and her four puppies were allegedly stolen from a Johns Island Family. Can you give us an update on that case? Have there been any arrests?
Sheriff Kristin Graziano: That’s an ongoing investigation. I do know that it’s still active, so I don’t want to comment on that, but that is an ongoing investigation.
Carolina Tails: Let’s talk about a long history of teamwork between the Sheriff’s office and Charleston Animal Society. How do you see this long-term partnership moving forward, such as helping to provide training for Animal Control Officers? Sheriff Kristin Graziano: Yes, we just did a training. I think we’re going in the right direction and our partnership will only strengthen.
Carolina Tails: Is there a case in your years in law enforcement that involved an animal that sticks out in your mind?
Sheriff Kristin Graziano: So many. I have picked up animals in my job and brought them home and they’d become my pets. The ones that really stick out are the ones where somebody abandons an animal, gets evicted, leaves the animal behind, and then we find a home for it. The one that stands out recently though, was kind of odd. It went viral on our website. I don’t know if you saw it. We have a couple of trees back here on the property and it is spring, so baby birds are being born and the baby fell out of the tree into the parking lot. One of our crime scene people saw it and she ran back there and she rescued it and they got somebody with a ladder and they were able to get back up in the tree and put the baby back in the nest and they saved it.
Carolina Tails: You are now a few months into your job as Charleston County Sheriff. What has surprised you the most about the job?
Sheriff Kristin Graziano: I think what surprised me most is the cooperation that I’m getting. A lot of people thought that it was going to be this evil takeover, and this was going to be this contentious battle, and it hasn’t been that at all. I knew most of the people in this building and in the community. I think what has surprised me the most is how pleasant it has been for me to come in and to be able to listen to folks and for them to listen to me and have these mutual conversations. I’m not an outsider, so that helps I don’t know how to explain it, it’s starting to come alive again. It’s pleasant to walk up and down the halls and hear laughter, which we haven’t heard in a while. And I think that’s been the most surprising thing to me. That’s what I expect. It’s been incredibly rewarding so far. There’s not enough hours in the day, for sure.