Animal Legal and Historical Center
Great Apes and the Law: A complete resource for the legal status of the Great Apes within the United States
Michigan State University College of Law

General information

Federal and International

State

Specific State Information

  • Missouri
  • Florida
  • California
  • Texas
Share |

Detailed Discussion of South Carolina Great Ape Laws



Rebecca F. Wisch


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2013
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

Printable Version

I. Introduction

In the state of South Carolina, there is no specific law that mentions great apes or contains an outright ban on private ownership of great apes. Any protection great apes receive in the state is due to their status as federally-protected endangered species. Regulations issued under the authority of the South Carolina Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act ban the possession of federally-listed endangered or threatened species except by scientific or conversation permit issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. This would exclude many uses of apes in the private sector.

Great apes are generally protected from intentional abuse and neglect under the state’s anti-cruelty law. However, this law excludes certain activities permitted under Title 50 of the state’s fish and game code such as scientific collection and zoological purposes.

II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law

A. Private Possession of Great Apes

Private possession of great apes in South Carolina is banned through the state’s endangered species laws and accompanying regulations. Because great apes are a federally-protected species, they are covered by the Act. Under 50-15-20, “endangered” includes any species of wildlife appearing on either the native or foreign list of endangered wildlife. S.C. ST. § 50-15-20(2)(e). The same definition holds for threatened species. The regulations promulgated under the Act make it illegal:

. . . for any person to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship, and for any common carrier knowingly to transport or receive for shipment any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on the list of “Endangered Wildlife Species of South Carolina”, except by permit for scientific and conservation purposes issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

SC ADC 123-150. This would clearly exclude possession of an endangered or threatened ape as a pet in South Carolina.

B. Possession by Roadside and Traditional Zoos (Class C USDA Licensees)

South Carolina does not have a specific law that addresses possession of great apes by roadside or traditional zoos. However, the endangered species provisions appear to limit possession to certain zoological institutions. As noted above, the endangered species regulations disallow the taking, possession, or selling of all federally-listed endangered or threatened species. SC ADC 123-150. The only exception is for properly permitted activities by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Under Section 50-15-50, the department may issues permits for “zoological” purposes. SC ST § 50-15-50. The term “zoological” is not further defined in the law or regulations, but likely would be up to the discretion of the Department. It is unclear whether this would be limited to accredited zoos or expanded to include roadside menageries or other self-described “zoos.”

C. Commercial Exhibitors

Private possession of great apes in South Carolina is banned through the state’s endangered species laws and accompanying regulations. Because great apes are a federally-protected species, they are covered by the Act. Under 50-15-20, “endangered” includes any species of wildlife appearing on either the native or foreign list of endangered wildlife. S.C. ST. § 50-15-20(2)(e). The same definition holds for threatened species. The regulations promulgated under the Act make it illegal:

. . . for any person to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship, and for any common carrier knowingly to transport or receive for shipment any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on the list of “Endangered Wildlife Species of South Carolina”, except by permit for scientific and conservation purposes issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

SC ADC 123-150. The permit purposes do not appear to contemplate commercial use.

D. Sanctuaries

South Carolina does not have a specific law that addresses great ape sanctuaries or rehabilitation of exotic wildlife. Because great apes are a federally-protected species, they are covered by the Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act t. Under 50-15-20, “endangered” includes any species of wildlife appearing on either the native or foreign list of endangered wildlife. S.C. ST. § 50-15-20(2)(e). The same definition holds for threatened species. The regulations promulgated under the Act make it illegal:

. . . for any person to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship, and for any common carrier knowingly to transport or receive for shipment any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on the list of “Endangered Wildlife Species of South Carolina”, except by permit for scientific and conservation purposes issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

SC ADC 123-150.

While possession of federally-listed endangered or threatened species is banned by the Act, an ape sanctuary may meet the criteria for permit issued by the DNR. Section 50-15-50 allows the possession of endangered or threatened species “for scientific, zoological, or educational purposes, for propagation in captivity of such wildlife, or for other special purposes.” S.C. ST. § 50-15-50. The care of injured or abandoned apes in captivity may meet the above-listed purposes. This would be at the discretion of the DNR.

E. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities

Section § 50-11-1180 of the fish and game code allows the taking of protected species for “strictly scientific or propagating purposes only.” This section specifically states that collection permits for the taking of endangered species  “must be issued only in accordance with Section 50-15-50.” This section states:

(D) The department may permit the taking, possession, transportation, exportation, or shipment of species or subspecies of wildlife which appear on the state list of endangered species, or species in need of management on the United States' List of Threatened or Endangered Native Fish and Wildlife, as amended and accepted in accordance with Section 50-15-40(d), or on the United States' List of Threatened or Endangered Foreign Fish and Wildlife, as such list may be modified hereafter, for scientific, zoological, or educational purposes, for propagation in captivity of such wildlife, or for other special purposes.

S.C. ST. § 50-15-50(D). From the language, it would appear that the scientific use of federally listed endangered or threatened species may be allowed by the department. The Department would then issue these permits on a discretionary basis.

While the state’s cruelty law does not specifically exempt scientific research or testing, it does have an exclusion for “activity authorized by Title 50.” S.C. ST § 47-1-40. This would encompass the scientific collection permit detailed above. In addition, all applicable federal laws and regulations for research facilities still apply in the state.  Great apes are not normally used in chemical testing, but in a few states they are still part of scientific research.

III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in South Carolina

The only provisions affecting great apes in South Carolina are the state’s endangered species and anti-cruelty laws. While the South Carolina code specifically outlaws the buying, selling, trading, or possessing for sale of protected wild mammals, the title of the law indicates that it is directed at native species (“Unlawful to buy, sell, or possess for sale protected native wildlife; penalty” [emphasis added]). SC ST § 50-1-290. It is clear that South Carolina’s Nongame and Endgame Species Conservation Act and its accompanying regulations ban the possession importation or transportation of endangered and threatened species, including great apes.

A. Nongame and Endgame Species Conservation Act

Great apes’ status as a federally-protected endangered species afford them additional protections under South Carolina’s endangered species act and regulations issued by the state department of natural resources. South Carolina’s Nongame and Endgame Species Conservation Act mandates that the Department of Natural Resources issue regulations limiting the taking, possession, transportation, exportation, and selling endangered species. SC ST § 50-15-30. Under 50-15-20, “endangered” includes any species of wildlife appearing on either the native or foreign list of endangered wildlife. S.C. ST. § 50-15-20(2)(e). The same definition holds for threatened species. The regulations promulgated under the Act make it illegal:

. . . for any person to take, possess, transport, export, process, sell, or offer for sale or ship, and for any common carrier knowingly to transport or receive for shipment any species or subspecies of wildlife appearing on the list of “Endangered Wildlife Species of South Carolina”, except by permit for scientific and conservation purposes issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

SC ADC 123-150.

As a result, most uses of great apes are banned by these regulations except for certain scientific or zoological purposes. The Act further outlaws the taking of an endangered species, which includes the hunting, harassing, capturing, or killing of a listed animal. SC ST § 50-15-40(c). There is no exemption to this Act that would apply to great apes. The penalty for violation of that section or the regulations is a misdemeanor with a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment of not more than thirty days and an order to pay restitution. SC ST § 50-15-80(B).

B. Cruelty to Animals

Great apes are not specifically mentioned in any of South Carolina’s anti-cruelty laws.  However, South Carolina’s anti-cruelty statute defines “animal” as any “living vertebrate creature except a homo sapien.” SC ST § 47-1-10.  Since great apes are vertebrates and not explicitly exempted from any of the provisions of the law, the anti-cruelty statute applies to great apes.

Under South Carolina’s anti-cruelty statute, it is unlawful to knowingly or intentionally overwork, ill-treat, inflict pain and suffering upon, torture, or kill an animal. SC ST § 47-1-40.  It is also illegal to abandon an animal without securing for it the “necessities of life,” which include food, water, and shelter. SC ST § 47-1-70.

The law exempts “activity authorized by Title 50,” which would encompass the scientific collection permit described in Section II(E) above. S.C. ST § 47-1-40.

IV. Conclusion

South Carolina prohibits most forms of possession of great apes through its Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. The Act itself and the promulgated regulations exempt only certain activities conducted under a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources. While all great apes in the state are protected from intentional abuse and neglect under anti-cruelty laws, the law does exclude those permitted activities authorized by the state DNR. The state, like many others, makes no direct mention of great apes in its laws nor do the regulations provide guidance for care of apes in captivity.


 

Top of Page
Share |