CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Animal advocates are shedding light on a little known law in the City of Charleston that requires animal owners to pay a tax for their pets.
The tax is a one-time $5 fee, and the city issues the pet with a tag and keeps its information on file.
"I guess anything to get taxpayers' money," dog owner Sophia Romagnolo said.
Romagnolo brings her pets Bella and Rossi to the park to play regularly, but she and other citizens didn't know about the law requiring her pets to be licensed with the city.
Police say the law has been on the books since 1844 under the "Animals Tags and Licenses" section of city code. It requires dogs, cats and horses to be licensed and registered.
Pet owners are supposed to register at Animal Control on Lockwood Boulevard. Some of the information the application asks for includes your pet's breed, name and rabies tag information.
Charleston Animal Society President Charlie Karesh wants to see the pet license law more heavily enforced. He says animals found running around stray in the city are brought here to the Animal Society, costing the organization money until the owner is tracked down.
"It's good for the citizens. It's good for the pets. It's good for the animal society," Karesh said. "People get their animals back faster and we'll have healthier animals."
The Animal Society says there are more than 35,000 estimated owned pets in Charleston, with only a few hundred that are on file with the city. Those pets are required to wear a small city issued tag at all times.
"I really think it's unnecessary," Romagnolo said. "There are so many dogs out there. Everybody pretty much owns a dog in Charleston, so it's pretty hard to keep track of."
Police say they will enforce the law by telling pet owners without a city-issued tag to apply for one. Pet owners who do not comply could be ticketed, or if they go to court could face penalties or fines to be set by a judge.
In other towns and municipalities, Sullivan's Island requires all residents and visitors to register their pets with the town, if they are out either on the beach or in public. Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Summerville do not require any licensing with the city to own a pet.
State law requires all pets get a rabies vaccine and wear a rabies tag.