OCONEE CO., SC (WSPA) – Residents are sounding off about what they call an “aggressive dog” in their Westminster neighborhood.
Officials with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said a dog was seized on Friday, but some people in the area are questioning why it took so long.
“Tons of aggression and actually escape quite frequently and the male dog has bitten,” said Suzette Snedigar.
“We’re prisoners in our own home because of fear of these animals,” she said.
Snedigar said she lives on Jenkins Street and claims her neighbor’s Pitbull has bitten people multiple times.
The Westminster neighborhood is surrounded by schools and children, Snedigar said.
“It’s two blocks to this middle school from where those dogs are. Two blocks to the elementary school and so many walkers including my own daughter walk this path, right past those dogs daily during the week and they’re scared, and we’ve had to tell them to go different directions because we’re fearful of their safety,” Snedigar said.
According to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, three cases have been reported over the last five months.
“After speaking with our animal control officers, we have three case files involving a dog here, including the last one which actually set up the dangerous dog hearing with the magistrate that is scheduled for Monday,” said Master Deputy Jimmy Watt with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.
Watt said in December, the dog was running loose, and its owner was warned. He said another time, the dog bit someone and quotes were given.
“Apparently this particular dog, one dog involved, actually was given away at some point,” Watt said.
Watt said charges were dropped because the dog was no longer there. Watt said somehow the dog came back and bit another person on May 15th. It was into custody on Friday after the owner violated a magistrate order.
“That was done due to the fact that, according to the magistrate court owner, the dog was to be leashed while it was on the property,” Watt said.
“My understanding was that the dog may have been in some type of fenced-in backyard in the back, but apparently the dog according to the magistrate owner, was supposed to be leashed on the property, and wasn’t–and when we took possession of the dog, that’s the reason why,” he said.
“It should have never gotten to that. I feel like that was a failure on our animal control and I feel like it was a failure on a judicial system,” Snedigar said. “Animal control should have seized that dog from the first bite in my opinion. I don’t understand what the protocol is there and I’d like answers.”
“According to what I’ve been told by animal control based on a county ordinance, the dogs have to be maintained on the property and have to be under the control of the owners. I don’t know specifically because this occurred inside the city limits of Westminster, our animal control officers did not necessarily know what the city ordinance involved and of course in cities they may have their own separate ordinances,” Watt said.
“The general language says that dogs must be maintained on the owner’s property and under the control of the owners,” Watt said.
We spoke to the off-camera owner. She takes responsibility for not having the dog on a leash.
“I messed up. I let him out and didn’t have him on a leash. I was out there with him, but he wasn’t on a leash,” the owner said.
The woman said even though the dog bit someone, she doesn’t consider him vicious.
“They absolutely are what I would deem a vicious dog when the entire neighborhood is terrified of them,” Snedigar said.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is now sending a message.
“What we would say is follow the law and follow the county ordinance. Maintain the dog on your property and under your control because if you don’t and obviously that dog leaves the property and maybe attacks somebody certainly, there could be some liability there for the dog owner,” Watt said.
Snedigar said she hopes something can be done.
“My concern is why it took so much to get that dog out of custody of these people and off of our streets,” Snedigar said. “I hope there will be stricter consequences because there have been no consequences. There have been citations, but that’s nothing. There need to be stricter rules.”
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said there will be a dangerous animal hearing on Monday.