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A South Carolina Guide to Dog Laws and Owners’ Duties

What does it mean to be a responsible dog owner in South Carolina? Having a “man’s best friend” appeals to many of us and has grown in popularity. By being aware of the laws involved in owning a dog, you can avoid unnecessary issues and promote a lifelong bond between you and your dog.

What rules apply? Does your dog need to be on a leash or contained on your property? What vaccinations are required?

This article will discuss these matters in depth to help ensure your pet is well taken care of and you are a responsible dog owner.

Do I Need to Have My Dog on a Leash in South Carolina?

State and local laws apply to pertain to dogs. The state of South Carolina requires that anyone who brings their dog to public areas or a dog park must have their dog crated, contained, or on a leash or harness that is no longer than six feet.

Local laws may vary, but if you plan to adhere to a six-foot maximum leash on your dog when you go for walks or bring them to public places such as a dog park, you can avoid unnecessary stress.

What is a “Dangerous Dog”?

You may have heard the term “dangerous dog” and wondered what it meant or what requirements were put on the dog owner who owns one. If your pet tends to attack unprovoked or has in the past, it generally means you own a dangerous dog. The label isn’t based on certain breeds but on qualities your dog may possess.


If your dog has shown signs of lunging, snarling, or aggressive barking at other dogs or people in the past, you will need to ensure that your dog is contained well within your property and not allowed to run freely in public. Allowing a dangerous dog to interact freely in public could lead to a liability issue for you as the owner.

Furthermore, suppose you own a dangerous dog or one that has shown signs in the past of being aggressive toward people or other dogs. In that case, it is essential to update their enclosures and provide signage with a warning to others who may attempt to enter your property, especially children. If you fail to prepare adequately, you may face liability issues in the future, which could lead to fines or jail time if danger is present.

Again, it is essential to understand the local laws that each city or area has regarding dangerous dogs or dogs of any kind so you can avoid issues.

Does South Carolina Follow the “One Bite Rule”?

You may have heard concerning dog attacks that, in some states, a “one bite rule” applies. If the dog has bitten another dog or human in the past, the owner is aware of the animal’s tendencies and must follow specific laws.

In South Carolina, a strict liability rule is followed rather than a “one-bite rule.” Strict liability is more regulated than the one-bite rule as it can allow the dog owner to face liability issues even after the first dog bite rather than only after they have shown signs of aggression.

The strict liability rule was changed in 1986 in South Carolina. If you have moved here or are unfamiliar with this somewhat unique perspective on dog ownership, it is essential to understand how it will affect you.


Based on strict liability, you are liable for the injuries sustained if your dog bites and injures someone. This can be true even if you have never seen an aggressive indication from your dog.

What if the Victim Was On My Property?

There are a few exceptions to the strict liability rule. If the person who was bit unlawfully entered your property, for example, and was injured, you may not be responsible if your dog was legally contained within a fence. The person chose to enter without warning.

You may also avoid liability if you prove that the injured person was taunting, abusing, or provoking the dog before a dog bite.

Finally, suppose your dog is utilized as a law enforcement dog and reacts due to a command, as long as the command is lawful and the dog is adequately trained. In that case, you may not be liable for actions taken by the dog during a law enforcement exercise or duty.

What Types of Losses Can Dog Bite Victims Pursue?

If an injured party chooses to pursue losses due to a dog bite, they may recoup costs associated with medical bills or lost wages while addressing injuries or healing. If the victim cannot return to work in the same capacity they were before the bite injuries, they may pursue additional damages.

Additionally, non-financial losses may also be pursued. Non-financial losses may include pain and suffering or emotional trauma. PTSD can arise following a dog attack and may require lengthy therapy or medication to assist the victim moving forward.


In most cases, insurance policies such as homeowners insurance can help to offset costs that may arise after a dog bite. If insurance doesn’t cover the costs, the victim may pursue further damages by filing a lawsuit against the dog owner.

Faced With a Dog Bite Injury?

The situation can feel overwhelming whether you are the dog owner or the victim of a dog bite. You don’t have to guess or worry and can work with an experienced team of personal injury attorneys aware of the local laws and how to protect yourself.

Contact our office at (803) 391-3120 to learn how we can best assist you!

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