Former S.C. first lady: Sullivan's Island is too tough on pet owners

Jenny Sanford walks into Sullivan's Island Municipal Court on Tuesday to settle her dog-at-large ticket. The maximum fine was $1,040, but a judge allowed the former South Carolina first lady to pay only $150.

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford paid a greatly reduced fine of $150 for her runaway-dog ticket, but still thinks the town fathers are too tough on loose pets.

In a case that ended with more wimper than bite, Municipal Judge Larry Duffy on Tuesday said he’s never known an instance where he’s given the $1,040 maximum for a dog-at-large ticket.

But because he knew Sanford to be a repeat offender whom he’d seen before, the $150 fine was more apt than anything lower, he said.

She’d already paid $90 for a different dog that ran loose in 2010.

“Escalating the fine, hopefully it gets their attention,” Duffy said.

Sanford’s appearance in the town’s Municipal Court ends a spat that started in February when her 8-year-old black Labrador, Julius, wandered off and was picked up by police a few streets away from her Atlantic Avenue home.

The dog was taken to the island’s pound, and Sanford was written a ticket with the maximum $1,040 bond offense limit posted on it.

Early in the case, Sanford admitted guilt, but the fine became her bigger issue.

After her brief court appearance ended, Sanford repeated her contention to reporters that the practice of island police writing the maximum $1,040 bond for loose dogs is still too heavy-handed for what many want to remain a sleepy beach town.

She called the amount both “a tax on resident dog owners” and “a tax on your time,” because it forces people to come to court to protest, even when they admit guilt.

She suggested police look to other communities where she’s heard of dogs being returned to their homes and the owner billed as little as a $75 fee.

She also rejected any allegation that she’s been negectful, saying there was a chance Julius wandered off because the dog was annoyed by the TV show “Army Wives” filming next door and making noise in the early part of the morning.

“I’m not an errant parent of a dog,” she told Duffy. “We love our pets.”