Those heading to the Isle of Palms soon may have to stop at city hall if they are bringing a dog.
This week, IOP City Council voted 5-4 to give initial approval to a requirement that visitors get the same yearly dog permit that's already required for residents. Locals pay $5 for the permit, but those who don't live in the city would pay $10.
"What we're trying to do is make sure all pets on Isle of Palms are registered, and they agree with rules and regulations, like our residents do," IOP Mayor Jimmy Carroll said, adding that the move was not intended as a "money grab."
He added that a town resident had twice had their own dog attacked by a visitor's dog in the local bark park.
Making all dogs register "gives us teeth for our police department to enforce," Carroll said. The ordinance will not go into effect until another approval by the council.
Isle of Palms isn't the only beach community in the Charleston area that requires dog permits. On Sullivan's Island, residents and visitors alike must pay $35 for a dog permit. In Folly Beach, only residents have to license their dogs. It costs $3, the cost of the tag dogs are supposed to have on their collar, said City Administrator Spencer Wetmore.
All three municipalities require canine lovers to pickup after their furry friends, and they all have rules about when a dog can be let off its leash. All three also require proof of a rabies shot when applying for a dog permit.
Pearl Sutton, senior director of animal services with the Charleston Animal Society, said no studies have been done to show if local permitting programs help stop the spread of rabies or other diseases. In most cases, cities and towns are just enforcing the state rules that require a rabies shot by 3 or 4 months of age, she said.
State law says anyone who has not vaccinated their dogs against rabies faces the maximum penalty available in magistrate court, which is more than $1,000. The penalty is the same under IOP's existing ordinance for residents' pets.
It's recommended to bring a dog's vaccination paperwork along anyway for long, inter-state trips, Sutton said. If the dog bites another person or animal, the first question is whether the dog has rabies. It's important to be able to show that a pet isn't a danger to public health.
"Do I think it's unreasonable (to make visitors get permits)? Absolutely not," she said.