Five months have passed since a dog now known as Amara was shot, blinded and left to die on a road in Townville. Just days ago, the Anderson County Council took the first steps to try to make what happened to her illegal.
Amara, a 2-year-old boxer, was found Jan. 28, wandering as a stray on Mystic Cove Lane in Townville. She was significantly underweight and had sores on her head. An animal-control officer took her to the county's shelter, Pets Are Worth Saving. But it wasn't until later that a veterinarian's X-ray revealed Amara had been shot in the head.
The Anderson County Sheriff's Office began an investigation after the case received media attention from the Independent Mail and other outlets. The owner of the dog told investigators he shot the boxer 19 days before she was found, according to Sheriff John Skipper.
The owner told investigators that the dog became aggressive after having puppies and had bitten his pregnant wife. The owner said he tried to find someone to take the boxer, but when no one would, he made the decision to take her to a boat ramp near Apple Island, lead her to a wooded area, and shoot her. As rain poured from the sky, he left her for dead.
The owner was never charged with any crime. Because of that, investigators with the Sheriff's Office have refused to disclose his identity.
"We don't want what happened to Amara to ever happen to another dog if we can help it," County Councilman Tom Allen said recently. "If you don't want your dog anymore, you don't get to just take it out and shoot it."
The County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday on the first reading of an ordinance that lays out stricter rules for how residents must handle their animals.
Under the new regulations, a domesticated dog could only be euthanized by a veterinarian or a licensed euthanasia technician.
"If the animal is unwanted, it must be taken to a certified shelter or recognized rescue shelter," the ordinance reads. "Shooting of a canine with a firearm for the purpose of euthanasia is prohibited unless the animal has been severely injured and it is the only way to prevent undue suffering."
The ordinance does include exceptions, indicating the regulations do not apply "in situations where an individual is threatened by a rabid animal or where the animal is destroying livestock, poultry or other personal property."
Anyone found not in compliance with the ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
The ordinance has to be voted on two more times before it becomes final. The earliest that could happen is likely in August.
"Enforcement, of course, is key," said Allen, who led efforts to update county regulations after Amara was shot. "We will be depending on our law enforcement officials to do what needs to be done."
Skipper said Saturday that he and the animal-control officers would enforce the ordinance if it becomes final.
"We would have to gather evidence to determine that someone is out of compliance," he said. "And if someone isn't doing what they are supposed to, we will enforce what is available to us."
In earlier interviews, Skipper said Amara's owner likely wasn't charged because of the way South Carolina law is written.
"In our statutes, a dog is your property," he said. "There is no statute that says you cannot euthanize your own dog."
Magistrate Mary Frances Cole declined to press charges against Amara's owner, but some animal-welfare activists didn't just blame her. They blamed the Sheriff's Office.
"I don't know what goes on in that agency, in that county, that makes this kind of thing acceptable instead of outrageous," Heidi Wagner said. "This ordinance is a step in the right direction, but, boy, they have a long way to go."
Wagner is the founder of Boxer Butts & Other Mutts, a rescue organization in Arden, N.C., near Asheville. Wagner has had Amara in her care since soon after the dog was picked up in Townville. She named her Amara because, in some languages, that means "beloved."
"She is a different dog now than when I first got her," Wagner said in an interview last week. "She romps and plays and runs in the backyard. What happened to her took her sight, but it didn't take her spirit. She is a survivor and is so full of love."
Wagner was so upset about Amara's case that she publicly endorsed Chad McBride in the race for Anderson County sheriff. McBride defeated Skipper and Jeremy Pickens in the June 14 Republican primary.
McBride said in a recent interview that when he takes office in January, he will evaluate the way animal control is handled in Anderson County.
"I grew up with animals, and I have always had pets," he said. "I was taught to love them and to have respect for life. We are all God's creatures, and we have a responsibility to make sure people aren't harming animals unnecessarily. I'll be evaluating our animal-control team to make sure that we can effectively investigate cases involving animal treatment."
Wagner said Amara is now thriving, and has gained about 30 pounds since she was brought to the rescue.
Amara also acts as a mother toward kittens brought into the rescue, Wagner said. She became especially attached to an orange kitten named Leo, often sleeping next to him, Wagner said.
"Amara still is frightened by loud noises and she still gets startled if someone or something comes up on her too fast," Wagner said. "But she has come so far. And she is safe now."