Dog Bites on South Carolina Beaches
Injury Attorneys Serving Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head
If you’re a resident of South Carolina, taking a day trip to the beach is a breeze. However, given the varying leash rules and regulations, it can be hard to know when you’ll be able to enjoy the beach without the unnecessary risk of strange dogs roaming across the beach unleashed. While most dogs on the beach are harmless, there is no telling when a dog could snap, attacking you when you least expect it.
At the Steinberg Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers have a long history of helping dog bite victims recover compensation for their medical expenses and other economic and non-economic damages. We love dogs, but we believe that animal owners should take responsibility for their pets—for the animal’s safety and for everyone else’s as well. And when a negligent owner has a dog that attacks another person, we believe the owner should be held accountable.
How Common Are Dog Bites?
With more than 76 million dogs in the United States, it’s no surprise that dog bites are a fairly common occurrence. In fact, by some estimates, there are almost 1,000 dog bite victims who are admitted to the emergency room every day. Certainly, some of these injuries are minor; however, an estimated 27,000 people per year undergo reconstructive surgery after being attacked by a dog.
What Are the Dog Laws For Charleston County Beaches?
Since the dog laws in Charleston County can vary from beach to beach, it can be difficult to remember what the restrictions are. Several beaches allow animal owners to walk their dogs on a leash, and most have specified “off leash” hours where dogs are allowed to run free. However, even during these off-leash hours, a pet owner must control their dog and carry a leash in the event they need to restrain the animal. Prior to visiting a state beach or park, it’s best to review each site’s website for any updated information.
Below are some of the local laws about walking dogs on Charleston County beaches.
Owners walking their dogs on the beach must keep their pets on a leash at all times. No dogs are allowed on the beach between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from now until September 30. Also, dogs are not allowed on the pier at any time of day.
Isle of Palms County Park
While on the beach, owners can keep their dogs off leash during certain times of the day, based on the season. For example, between April 1 and September 15, dogs are permitted to be off-leash between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. However, starting on September 15 and lasting through March 31, owners can walk their dogs without a leash before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Kiawah Beachwalker Park
Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round; however, all dogs must be leashed when they are outside. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, dogs do not need to be on a leash if they are in an enclosed area, such as a pen. And second, dogs are permitted to be off-leash while in the designated “dog use area,” which spans from the eastern boundary of the Beach Club to the Ocean Course Clubhouse. The Town of Kiawah Island provides animal owners with a printable leash map for ease of reference.
Pursuant to local ordinances, dog licenses are required for all dogs on Sullivan’s Island streets, private property, or beaches. Between now until September 30, dogs are allowed to be off-leash between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and can be walked on a leash between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. No dogs are permitted on the beach between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Between October 1 and April 30, dogs can be off leash between 5 a.m. and 12 p.m. and may be walked on a leash between 12 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Seabrook Island Beach
Seabrook Island Beach is divided into three areas: a Restricted Area, where dogs are never allowed regardless of whether they are on a leash; a Limited Restriction Area, where dogs must always be on a leash; and a General Beach Area, where dogs are permitted to be off leash between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in April through September. During the time between October and March, dogs are permitted to be off leash at all hours, provided the owner controls their pet.
Due to the high number of visitors and crowded beaches, Myrtle Beach has some of the strictest leash laws of all South Carolina beaches. Regardless of the time of year, on both the beach and the boardwalk, dogs must be on a leash that is less than seven feet long. Additionally, between May 1 through Labor Day, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. In terms of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, dogs are permitted while on a leash between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. from May 1 through Labor Day. From Labor Day through April 30, dogs are allowed on the boardwalk at any time.
Dogs are not allowed on Hilton Head Island Beach between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. However, the beach requires dogs to be on a leash between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from April 1st through the Thursday before Memorial Day as well as from the Tuesday after Labor Day through September 30th. Additionally, Hilton Head Beach requires dogs to be under the owner’s voice control at all times.
What Happens if a Dog Owner Violates a Leash Law?
Beaches vary in terms of the penalty for violating the leash law. However, in most cases, a dog’s owner who doesn’t respect the leash law will be issued a ticket. Of course, the amount of the ticket varies, depending on the beach. For example, on Seabrook Island, anyone who violates the city’s leash law can face a fine of up to $1087.50, and in Kiawah Island, Beach Patrol and Town Code Enforcement officers hand out tickets costing as much as $465 for a leash-law violation.
Who Is at Fault When a Dog Attacks Someone at a State Beach?
In cases involving a dog bite that occurs while at the beach, it’s possible that the animal’s owner or the beach could be liable. However, South Carolina’s dog bite laws make it much easier to prove a case against the pet owner. Under the South Carolina Code of Laws § 47-3-110, if a dog bites someone while they are in a public place or lawfully in a private place, the dog’s owner is strictly liable. Strict liability is a term used to describe cases where an injured person does not need to prove that the other party was legally negligent. In other words, it’s enough to show that the defendant owned the dog, and the dog bit the beachgoer. However, strict liability does not apply if a beachgoer is attacked after provoking a dog. In these cases, the injured beachgoer would need to prove that the dog owner was negligent.
It is much more difficult for a dog bite victim to hold the beach financially responsible for their injuries. There are a few reasons for this. First, some beaches are owned by the local government, which may give rise to immunity issues. Second, the victim would need to prove that the beach was somehow negligent in the creation or enforcement of its leash laws. While this is certainly possible—and these cases do come up from time to time—they are relatively uncommon.
Are Certain Dog Breeds Not Allowed on Beaches?
No, Charleston area beaches do not limit which breeds of dogs are allowed on the beach. Nor do the beaches restrict which breeds of dogs are permitted to be off-leash during designated off-leash hours.
What is the Statute of Limitations in a Charleston County Dog Bite Case?
In Charleston County, as well as in the rest of South Carolina, dog bite victims have up to three years to bring a claim against the animal’s owner. This three-year period starts from the date of injury. If a victim is unable to bring their case within the three-year dog bite statute of limitations, then the court will almost certainly dismiss the case, leaving them with no way to recover from their injuries.
Were You Attacked by a Dog on a South Carolina Beach?
If you were attacked by a dog while visiting a Charleston County state beach, reach out to the dedicated Charleston personal injury lawyers at the Steinberg Law Firm. At the Steinberg Law Firm, we have been helping injured people recover compensation for what they’ve been put through for more than 95 years. We handle all types of dog bite cases, including those occurring on Foley Beach, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Seabrook Island, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today, call 843-720-2800. You can also connect with us through our secure and confidential online contact form.
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