Pet problem lands former SC First Lady in dog house

Published: Mar. 2, 2012 at 12:32 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2012 at 3:40 PM EST
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SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - A $1000 fine. That's what former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford may be facing because her black lab, Julius, was found roaming the streets of Sullivan's Island by himself last week.

"Sometimes laws really aren't so fair," said Sanford, in her front yard Thursday. "Sometimes the punishment doesn't fit the crime."

On February 22, 8-year-old Julius wandered away from the family's home while his owner was out and about. Sanford said the electric fence that surrounds her property was broken and Julius' shock collar was off.

"I went to yoga and I came back and he was gone," said Sanford. "I found him at the police station shortly thereafter and was issued a large fine."

According to the Sullivan's Island police department the fine of $1,042 is standard procedure for a dog found roaming the streets.

"It's an attention getter," said Sullivan's Island Chief of Police Danny Howard. "We deal with some type of animal everyday. Dogs on the street or off the beach anywhere else on the island have to be leashed at all times."

Howard says the fine is actually an appearance bond. That means if the owner doesn't show up to a court date they will have to pay the entire amount.

But if they show up a judge may lower the fine depending on the circumstances.

Howard says the fine amount is the highest Sullivan's Island can charge for the violation and hopes it will make pet owners think twice about safety when their animals get free. Especially before summer time, when Howard says "things get worse."

Sanford says she understands the idea of the appearance bond but still thinks the fine is too high for the violation of her 'gentle, docile dog.'

"I was shocked," said Sanford. "I used to have two dogs and my last dog I had to give away because he had a $500 dollar fine. If Julius runs again I'll have to give him away too. I hope he doesn't run."

Chief Howard says the rules are in place for the safety of everyone on the island including it's furry occupants. Permits for pets brought onto Sullivan's Island are $35 for visitors and $25 for residents.

Sanford says she will abide by the law and pay the fine she receives at her court hearing April 3.

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