South Carolina Dog Law

Liability Statute

Whenever a person is bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog while the person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner's property or the property of a person having the dog in his care or keeping, the owner or keeper is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked. The statute does not apply if a person provokes the dog into attacking him or her.

Common Law Liability

In addition to recovering under the liability statute, dog bite victims can also file suit under the common law. To recover damages under the common law, a plaintiff must prove that the dog's owner or keeper had control and possession of the dog at the time of the injury. Once control and possession are established, the owner or keeper owes a duty of care against foreseeable harm.

Dangerous Animal Statute

Under South Carolina law, a "dangerous animal" includes:

  • a dog that the owner knows, or reasonably should know, has a propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, cause injury, or otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals;
  • a dog that makes an unprovoked attack that causes bodily injury to a human being and the attack occurs off the owner's premises. "Bodily injury" means broken bones, lacerations, punctures of the skin, or any physical injury resulting in death.
  • a dog that commits unprovoked acts off the owner's premises that cause a person to reasonably believe that the animal will attack and cause bodily injury to a human being; or
  • a dog that is owned or kept for fighting, or one which is trained for fighting.

A "dangerous animal" does not include an animal that attacks a person who is trespassing or who appears to be trespassing.

Legal Responsibilities of Owners of Dangerous Animals

  • Dangerous animal must be confined securely indoors or confined in a securely enclosed fence or securely enclosed and locked pen or run area on the owner's premises. The pen or run area must be clearly marked as containing a dangerous animal and must be designed to prevent the entry of the general public, including children, and to prevent the escape or release of the animal.
  • A dangerous animal is not permitted to go beyond its owner's premises, unless the animal is safely restrained.
  • Owners must register dangerous animals with local law enforcement.
  • Owners must maintain liability of insurance of at least $50,000 to insure the owner for personal injuries inflicted by the animal.

Liability of Owners of Dangerous Animals

In addition to being subject to civil liability, the owner of a dangerous animal that attacks and injures a person faces will face criminal liability. For the first offense, the owner is subject to a fine of $5,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to three years. For second and subsequent offenses, the owner is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

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