A bill pre-filed ahead of South Carolina’s legislative session tries to cut down on horse thievery by strengthening background checks on any sales.
“Most people don’t realize we have a horse thief problem,” State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, said.
Campbell said he proposed the bill requiring an “equine sales facility” to check with local horse rescue organizations before any sale after a volunteer for Stolen Horse International, known as NetPosse, reached out to him.
“There’s a bit of an epidemic on stolen horses,” he said. “It’s easy to take them from one state to the other and in some ways it’s not easy to identify them. In most cases the horses that are stolen or go missing are found but they’re sold by a thief or finder for profit.”
Campbell said those who board horses have been known to sell them off without the owner’s permission by telling the owner the horse escaped the boarding facility.
“Current law exists, which we are amending, and it would be used to determine if the horse has been stolen or reported missing as well as maintaining a sales record so rescues can see when and if a horse is sold,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the bill amends the current law pertaining to livestock with an amendment related specifically to horses, making the law similar for both horses and cattle. It would require anyone selling a horse to check with rescue and stolen organizations to determine if it was reported lost or stolen.
“If you’re going to sell a horse you’ve got to make sure the horse is a legitimate item that can be sold and not one that is stolen or lost and somebody’s trying to sell it,” he said.
The bill will establish penalties based on the horse’s value. If the animal is worth $10,000 or more, it would be treated as a felony with a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $2,500 fine upon conviction.
Campbell said the crime is the same as receiving stolen goods.
“You need to make sure that the horse you’re buying is a free and clear horse and the person you’re buying it from owns the horse,” he said. “It’s easy to steal a horse.”