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Friday, December 28, 2012

Myth: SD Felony Animal Cruelty Laws Will Negatively Affect Hunting & Animal Agriculture

Another common myth promoted by opponents is that 'South Dakota felony animal cruelty laws negatively affect hunting and animal agriculture'. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Case and point... our neighboring states have had these laws on the books for 10 to 20 years and continue to enjoy a viable Ag economy and vibrant tourism/hunting industry.

Montana passed a felony animal cruelty law to protect all animals in 1993.

Iowa passed a felony animal cruelty law in 2000 and exempted animal agriculture and hunting practices.

Minnesota passed a felony animal cruelty law to protect pets or companion animals in 2001.

Nebraska passed a felony animal cruelty law to protect all animals except un-captured wild animals in 2002.

And the only other state in the country without felony animal cruelty laws... the state of North Dakota has a felony animal cruelty bill drafted now to protect dogs, cats and horses in 2013.

A felony animal cruelty law in South Dakota will not affect hunting or animal agriculture. South Dakotans want protection for our pets and communities. Don't let them confuse the truth.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ALDF Ranks South Dakota One of the Worst States for Animals

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announced the publication of the 2012 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report. South Dakota has once again been ranked one of the worst states in the entire nation for animals. South Dakota & North Dakota are the only two states with no felony-level penalties for egregious acts of animal abuse. In addition to this, areas needing improvement include mandatory mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders and restrictions on future ownership of animals following a conviction.

The ALDF report is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind. The Rankings Report assesses the strength of each state’s animal protection laws by examining over 4,000 pages of statutes. Each jurisdiction receives a score based on fifteen different categories of animal protection. The Report also highlights the top, middle and bottom tiers of jurisdictions and notes the "Best Five" and "Worst Five" states.

South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT)  is a local grassroots coalition advocating for felony animal cruelty laws for companion animals. The group is currently working on securing a 2013 bill sponsor for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty against a companion animal related to the safety of  our communities. Animal cruelty is a predictor and indicator of violent crimes, domestic violence and child abuse. In a 20 year study, 70% of animal abusers were found to have then committed other crimes and 44% went on to harm people. (Arluke, A. & Luke, C. 1997) Current penalties for starting a puppy on fire is the same as writing a bad check. An individual would receive a  stiffer penalty for stealing a painting of a dog than abusing the actual dog.

SD FACT volunteer, Sara Parker states “We’re providing the facts and we need all South Dakotans to advocate. All neighboring states, except North Dakota, have had these laws on the books for year and they still enjoy a strong ag economy. This is about offenders who intentional and maliciously abuse companion animals. It is just the simple. South Dakotans want stronger penalties as our current laws are outdated; advocates have been pushing for felony-level penalties for several years. There is a proven link between animal cruelty and human violence – acts of malicious and intentional cruelty against an animal should be taken seriously. The state should mandate mental health evaluations, counseling, fines and prison time as appropriate to each case.”  

To  join  the SD FACT mission efforts contact us at or visit and

To learn more about The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF) rankings visit

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Myth: Only Out of State Animal Rights Groups Want Felony Animal Cruelty Laws in SD

It is just plain wrong when opponents say 'only out of state animal rights groups want felony animal cruelty laws in South Dakota'.

For the past five years South Dakotans have been asking legislators to make this a priority.

South Dakotans believe we should join the forty-eight other states in the country who already have these laws on the books.

South Dakotans are outraged by recent cases that demonstrate the link between animal cruelty & human violence.

South Dakotans want the legislature to pass a law that would protect pets and our communities from violent offenders.

Obviously, national animal protection organizations from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, to the ASPCA, American Humane Association and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary support South Dakotans in advocating for animals - why wouldn't they, that is what they do.

But only South Dakotans set the priorities in our state and South Dakotans want felony animal cruelty laws in 2013.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This type of animal cruelty does happen in SD; ask Harley

For the last few years animal advocates have been asking the South Dakota Legislature to make the most malicious acts of animal cruelty a felony meanwhile forty-eight other states already have felony laws in place. One myth promoted by opponents is 'that type of animal cruelty just doesn't happen in South Dakota'.

Unfortunately on occasion it does. Janet Meyer of Brookings is fighting for justice for Harley, her 13 year old Chihuahua.  According to Meyer, on the evening of Saturday October 27 Harley was viciously attacked and kicked in the head sending him flying across Meyer's yard. Harley was immediately knocked unconscious and stopped breathing. "I thought he was dead," said Meyer, "he did not resume breathing for an agonizingly long period of time."

Harley suffered a severe brain injury and while he did recover Harley is still somewhat shaky and is no longer the outgoing canine companion Meyer came to love. Harley's attacker was a male passerby walking with a group of friends who laughed after the attack and ran away. No arrest has been made but thanks to Crimestoppers the perpetrator has been identified. You can follow their story on Facebook.

Our neighboring state to the south knows this type of animal cruelty doesn't happen very often, but when it does Nebraska has a law to address violent acts against an animal. The recent case where an Omaha man was sentenced to prison for dog's horrific death is case and point. Nebraska's law has been on the books for 10 years and as Humane Investigator Langan states "felony animal abuse charges are filed only about two or three times a year — typically in cases in which an animal has been tortured, repeatedly beaten, mutilated or abandoned."

For those who say 'that type of animal cruelty just doesn't happen in South Dakota'... we hope it doesn't, but in the rare case where it does we want an appropriate law in place. Felony animal cruelty laws will protect pets and South Dakota communities from violent offenders.

UPDATE 1/8/2013 -
Harley's attacker was identified and arrested. Shane M. Hauge entered a guilty plea on January 8th to the injury or death of an animal (Harley) - a misdemeanor class 1. Hauge was sentenced to 100 days in jail; 86 suspended, a $413 fine and $500 restitution toward Harley's vet bills of $2500.

Although they was some sort of justice for Harley, Janet Meyer continues advocate for change of current South Dakota animal cruelty laws. Creating felony penalties will provide prosecutors with another option when dealing with violent offenders.  Meyer says "We are the voices for our beloved animals. SD law makers hear us roar! Make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally hurt or kill our pets in 2013!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Forty-eight States Already Have Felony Animal Cruelty Laws

We are always surprised to hear so many South Dakotans do not know we are one of only two states without felony level penalties for the most malicious acts of animal cruelty.

Cases like the Burbank man who beat his neighbor's dog to death with a hammer don't happen here very often. When they do South Dakota needs a law on the books to ensure violent offenders receive a punishment that equates to more than that of a traffic ticket.

South Dakotans do care about pets and the safety of our communities. There is a proven link between animal abuse and family violence. Our neighboring states were progressive in addressing this link years ago. Most have had felony animal cruelty laws in place for 10-20 years.

So why would South Dakota be the last? We are often outraged by random acts of violence and we pride ourselves on helping others. South Dakota communities come together to protect children and families from abuse, we generously donate to organizations dedicated to helping the less fortunate, and we enjoy a great quality of life.

With agriculture being the number one industry in South Dakota we also take great pride in our farmers and ranchers who drive a strong economy and are good stewards of the land and animals in their care. This is also reflected in the manner with which we treat our pets. A felony animal cruelty law is not about animal rights, it is about preserving the safety of our communities from violent offenders and protecting our companion animals.  The very dogs, cats and horses we committed to care for when we adopted or purchased them.

That is why it is particularly disturbing our current laws don't reflect our South Dakota pride. Let's work together to make South Dakota the forty-ninth state with felony level penalties for the most malicious acts of animal cruelty. If you agree, please contact your legislators and ask them to make this a priority during the 2013 South Dakota Legislative Session.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Get the Facts from SD FACT

Create Felony Level Penalties in South Dakota for Malicious and Intentional Acts of Animal Cruelty
Malicious and intentional acts of animal cruelty against a dog, cat or horse should be a class 6 felony in South Dakota punishable by two years in prison or a $4,000 fine, or both. Passing felony animal cruelty laws for companion animals is a crucial step in deterring violent offenders, ensuring community safety, and protecting pets.

Forty-eight states have laws making certain types of animal cruelty a felony and only 2 states do not, South Dakota and North Dakota. 
  • In a survey of over 1,000 representative U.S. households, 85% of those responding thought it was either “very important” or “important” to protect animals from cruelty. (2006) 
  • In South Dakota state law, the same level of penalty applies whether someone neglects to provide adequate food for an animal or maliciously stabs, tortures and kills that animal.
  • Neighboring states have had these laws on the books for 10 to 20 years and these states still enjoying a viable Ag economy. The proposed language will exempt traditional Ag practices as well as hunting and fishing.
  • The table below compares SD’s current laws for torturing a pet to those in neighboring states (data gathered from Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pet, The HSUS, ASPCA, and official state statute websites).

Max Penalty
Max Fine
Max Jail Time
Future Pet Ownership
Year Enacted
Class D felony: 2nd offence
5 years
Mandatory for torturous acts
No specific provision
All vertebrates other than livestock, game, furbearer, fish, reptile, amphibian or nuisance wildlife
Felony:  1st offence
4 years
May order
May ban future ownership
All pets or companion animals
Class D felony: 1st offence
4 years
No specific provision
No specific provision
All vertebrates
Felony: 1st offence
2 years
No specific provision
May ban future ownership for term of sentence
All animals
Class IV felony: 1st offense
5 years
No specific provision
Shall ban future ownership for 5-15 years
All vertebrates except un-captured wild animals
Class 1 misdemeanor
1 year
No specific provision
No specific provision
All animals
Felony: 1st offence
2 years
No specific provision
May ban future ownership
All animals

South Dakotans want stronger penalties as our laws are outdated; advocates have been pushing for felony level penalties for the past 5 years.
There is a proven link between animal cruelty and human violence, acts of malicious and intentional cruelty against an animal should be taken seriously, the state should appropriate prison time, fines should be mandated and counseling offered for these violent offenders.
  • Acts of intentional cruelty are often some of the most disturbing and violent offences and should be considered signs of serious psychological problems.  People who abuse and kill animals are more likely to target human victims. 
  • Animal cruelty is a predictor and indicator of violent crimes, domestic violence and child abuse. In a 20 year study, 70% of animal abusers were found to have then committed other crimes and 44% went on to harm people. (Arluke, A. & Luke, C. 1997)
  • Researchers found that there was animal abuse in 88% of families who were under State supervision due to the physical abuse of their children. (DeViney, Dickert & Lockwood, 1983)
  • Many times a parent or domestic partner who is abusive may kill, or threaten to kill, the household pets to intimidate family members into sexual abuse, to remain silent about previous or current abuse, or simply to psychologically torture the victims, flexing their "power". This is demonstrated in a current Mitchell case of a man accused of assaulting his daughter at gun point after killing   
                  her dog:
  • State and national surveys of domestic violence victims consistently find that as many as 71% of battered women report their partners threatened, or killed, the family pet. (Ascione, 1995)
Horrific acts of animal cruelty don't happen often but when they do, appropriate state laws should be in place to ensure the offenders get counseling (if appropriate) so they will not go on to harm humans.  Below find links to several recent and relevant cases: 
Brookings: Man attacks pet; kicking Chihuahua

Sioux Falls: Man kills 5 pound Chihuahua

Burbank: Dog Beaten to death with hammer

Fort Pierre: Man steals and tortures rodeo horse; Dually

Lead: Dog found shot; no charges pending until offender found

Yankton: Woman beats cat to death with hammer

Omaha, NE: Malicious cruelty doesn’t happen often but when it does it is important to have laws on the books

Jamestown, ND: Those on both sides of ND Measure 5 are working together