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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

South Dakota - the only state in our nation without any felony penalties for malicious animal cruelty

bill providing new protections for North Dakota animals leaves South Dakota as the last remaining state in the nation without felony penalties for the worst acts of animal cruelty.

We must congratulate North Dakota animal advocates who have worked on this bill for many years and even battled big Ag in a ballot measure last fall. Today the North Dakota legislature passed a bill that
 establishes first-offense felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty toward all animals and third-offense felony penalties for repeat offenders of lesser acts of abuse. The Senate-passed bill originally included third-offense felony penalties for repeat acts of neglect, but the House stripped that provision from the bill, which now treats neglect only as a misdemeanor, regardless of how many times it occurs. SB 2211 also provides some minimum welfare standards for dogs and cats in high volume breeding operations. After a long session with many amendments and exemptions for usual and customary practices used in livestock production, animal racing, rodeos, hunting and fishing the Senate passed the bill 43-3 and the House voted 80-12. The North Dakota Governor is expected to sign SB 2211 later this week.

So what does this mean for our efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws in South Dakota? Well we know Ag entities worked with animal advocates to create this bill that worked for everyone in North Dakota. That is our hope for the 2014 legislative session, because this isn’t about outside animal rights groups imposing their agenda on South Dakota. It is about providing prosecutors and judges with the option of stronger penalties in the most violent cases of animal cruelty to protect our pets and communities from these offenders.

SDFACT is doing our part. As highlighted in a recent article in the Tri State Neighbor, several of our volunteers will meet with Senator Krebs, the State Vet and staff from the Secretary of Ag's office next week. We are seeking their input on SB 171, the bill introduced by Senator Adelstein and Representative Hajek this session that would have made aggravated cruelty against dogs, cats and horses a class 6 felony. Although SB 171 excluded farming and ranching practices, Ag groups lobbied heavily against it, saying current animal abuse and cruelty statutes are adequate. The good news is that our bill is much simpler than the North Dakota version and we want to ensure it in no way affects South Dakota’s number one industry, agriculture.

So let’s not be discouraged, we know South Dakotans want stronger animal cruelty laws as outlined in a recent Aberdeen American News editorial. We ask all of our SDFACT followers to do their part in coming months – be a voice for animals. Comment on news articles or political blogs that discuss these efforts. Submit a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Share information through social media and be prepared to engage with your elected officials as we work toward a felony animal cruelty bill in 2014. For more information on specific cases in South Dakota please scroll through our previous blog posts. We are excited about moving forward with this legislation and we’ll keep you posted. You are the voice for the animals of South Dakota!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NORTH DAKOTA FRIENDS!


North Dakota friends! Urgent Action Required on Animal Cruelty Bill SB 2211 - COPY THIS TEXT AND SHARE! The House Ag Committee will make their recommendation on SB 2211 tomorrow morning (Friday, March 29). The sub-committee is recommending do pass with the addition of amendments that WEAKEN the bill. The proposed amendments from the Farm Bureau will remove third offense felony penalties in the neglect & abandonment section.

Please use the link below to contact all members of the House Ag Committee ASAP urging a do pass of the Senate version of SB 2211 with NO amendments because North Dakotans want what we were promised!Contact ND House Ag Committee

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Maysie's tragic story motivates animal advocates to change SD animal cruelty laws

In 2009 it was Maysie’s story that motivated SDFACT’s Shari Kosel to push for stronger animal cruelty laws in South Dakota. Maysie’s story, while tragic, may also motivate some of you to continue advocating for animals.

We share Maysie’s story in the words of her owner, Lois Grimsrud-Vig:

Our yellow lab puppy named Maysie filled a void in our lives and grew into a beautiful and loving companion. We realized she was something very special and spent hundreds of dollars having her trained professionally. Even the trainer fell in love with Maysie. She was so unique that when you said, "Smile Maysie", she would wrinkle her little snout and wag her tail. Our vet said he'd never seen a dog smile on command before. Maysie's only down fall was that she loved everyone and would go to anyone.
Ms. Maysie smiling on command.

One afternoon in 2009, I let Maysie outside to do her business but sadly she didn’t come back. Maysie was whistle-trained so I blew my whistle over and over, but no Maysie. We lived out in the country and drove around searching for her, blowing her whistle. Our neighbors helped and into the early morning hours we all looked for Maysie. My husband put on snowshoes and walked the mountain, fearing a coyote or mountain lion may had gotten her. Maysie had never taken off for more than an hour or two but soon hours turned into days.

I called all the veterinarian clinics in the Black Hills fearing she was stolen for a hunting dog and I put ads in newspapers from Aberdeen to Yankton and Spearfish to Sioux Falls offering a $500 reward if she was returned. We received numerous calls from all over the state but none were successful.  Days turned into weeks and we finally came to the conclusion that our Maysie was gone.

We prayed that who ever had her was taking care of her and would love her as much as we did. One month later we received a call from someone who said, "we think we found your dog in our shed".  The rest will haunt us forever.

Sadly, they found Maysie in what we considered a death chamber. To add a sadisic twist, the latch on the shed was securely fastened from the outside. According to the investigation report put together by the Lawrence County Sheriff's office, Maysie was kept alive in a cruel and neglected state for quite some time. When she was no longer able to move, the perpetrator moved her to that shed to die. The shed was on the Deer Mountain Ski Hill and it was locked from the outside...no windows, no way to get in unless she was put there. When we found Maysie she was so emaciated that you could see her ribs and hips. You could see she had scratched a rug that was in the shed into a pile to sleep on and you could see marks on the door where she tried to get out. The shed owner said he was in this shed just two weeks prior and it was empty. Trying to make sense of the situation, I asked a vet if Maysie could have survived that long with no food. The answer was yes, a healthy animal could live for as long as a month with only water. It is almost too much to comprehend that someone could be so cruel and heartless to any living thing – especially Maysie who probably went to them smiling and wagging her tail. We offered a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for Maysie's death.

We cannot comprehend why anyone would do such a thing to a beautiful animal and the Sheriff never found any leads in the case. One cannot even imagine the pain and suffering Maysie endured. Perhaps most upsetting to us was the fact that even if the perpetrator was found, there would be no justice for Maysie under current South Dakota animal cruelty laws.  While cases like this don’t happen often – when people commit such evil acts against a pet, there should be stricter laws in place so prosecutors can properly deal with offenders. 

I hope by sharing Maysie’s story, other South Dakotans will understand why we need felony-level penalties for malicious and intentional acts of torture. People who commit these horrific acts could be a danger to the community and should receive a mental health evaluation and counseling so they will not later offend against humans. Please join me in supporting SB 171 to protect our pets and communities.  We offer a special thank you to Shari Kosel for leading this long and sometimes frustrating effort to change South Dakota animal cruelty laws in memory of Maysie and many others who have suffered needlessly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Employee using state resources to take down SD animal advocates & SB 171

Today an article in the Mitchell Daily Republic described Jim Krantz’s efforts to spread a message in opposition to animal advocacy in South Dakota. Krantz is a cow/calf field specialist with South Dakota State University and recently made a presentation to the Mitchell Lions Club.

According to the article Krantz said “they think we need a felony penalty for that, and I’m not here to argue that.” Krantz goes on to say “he feels such changes should come from South Dakotans, not from the HSUS…”

Guess what Mr. Krantz… SB 171 was created by South Dakotans and is supported by South Dakotans. No national organization (not HSUS) is affiliated with this bill. It is also important to note all of SD’s neighboring states recognized the link between animal cruelty and human violence 10-20 years ago.  We believe it is time SD became the 49th state in the country with felony-level penalties to protect our pets and communities from violent offenders.  Mr. Krantz and his Ag groups would know this if they would respond to SDFACT’s invitations to discuss SB 171.

The bottom line is Ag entities have no intention of coming to the table with South Dakotans to pass meaningful laws.  Instead Mr. Krantz of South Dakota State University is wasting state resources to take down South Dakota animal advocates in order to block the passage of SB 171.  Join us in voicing our frustration by contacting South Dakota State University President David Chicoine to let him know you are a South Dakota taxpayer and believe Mr. Krantz’s efforts are a waste of state resources.

With individuals like Mr. Krantz labeling South Dakotans as extreme animal rights activists, you can bet our battle to pass SB 171 will be even more difficult. This misinformation continues to detract from the merits of the bill so it is even more important to let members of the Senate Ag Committee know SB 171 excludes hunting, fishing, trapping and animal agriculture and it protects pets and South Dakota communities from violent offenders.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why are Ag entities for animal cruelty & when will they meet with SB 171 supporters?

“Monday, Ag United met with various industry groups to form a strategy for battling South Dakota Senate Bill 171, the animal cruelty legislation. The measure would up violations from a misdemeanor to a felony. 
Clear Lake area South Dakota pork producer and Ag United Board member Paul Brandt says they believe the present misdemeanor law is adequate.

Brandt says SB 171 backers are being influenced by HSUS and other activist groups whose goal is to eliminate animal agriculture.

He doesn’t think SB 171 supporters will be able to get their bill out of committee.  However, if they do, Ag United and others will join forces to defeat the bill in the full legislature.”

In reviewing this story, we were shocked by the constant misinformation presented.  SDFACT is an all-volunteer group of South Dakotans working to make South Dakota the 49th state in the country with felony-level penalties for the most malicious acts of cruelty against dogs, cats and horses. 

1)         Mr. Brandt is incorrect, current laws are not adequate unless you are for animal cruelty. He should read about recent South Dakota cases and explain how a slap on the wrist is appropriate for these violent acts.
2)         Ag United once claimed SDFACT was a front group for the HSUS and now they are claiming South Dakotans are “being influenced by HSUS and other activist groups whose goal is to eliminate animal agriculture”. We are smarter than that Mr. Brandt, we are South Dakotans who have been working to pass felony animal cruelty laws in SD for 5 years and we haven’t been influenced by any activist groups – we did our own research and know our pets and communities deserve this protection. This bill has nothing to do with animal agriculture, why do Ag entities care about SB 171?

3)         Ag United and Jim Krantz in the email string below claim they were not discussing SB 171 at their meeting on Monday, but Mr. Brandt via WNAX claims the meeting did happen.  Which is it and why won’t Ag entities come together with South Dakota animal advocates to pass a law that works for everyone?

From SDFACT volunteers:

Dear Mr. Dick:

Following up on the email we sent January 11, we are now asking for your organization’s support of SB 171.  We are volunteers with South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT), a group of SD citizens working to make South Dakota the 49th state with felony level penalties for the most malicious acts of cruelty against dogs, cats and horses.

We assure you SDFACT is a grassroots movement to pass a 2013 felony companion animal cruelty law and nothing more. We have not received any financial assistance from the HSUS or any other national organization. We are not a front group for any animal rights group; we are South Dakotans looking to protect our pets and communities from violent offenders.

We wish to work with your organization to ensure SB 171 passes this session and does not threaten the livelihood of your members or animal agriculture in South Dakota. Can we speak at your meeting of agriculture groups on Monday in Pierre to discuss SB 171? Please help us pass a law that works for everyone in 2013.

Sincerely,

Sara Parker                         Shari Kosel
Sioux Falls, SD                    Lead, SD

From Steve Dick Ag United:

Ms. Parker & Ms.  Kosel,

The agenda for the meeting was set by Jim Krantz with SDSU Extension Service.  Jim can be reached at Jim.Krantz@sdstate.edu

Steve Dick
Ag United for South Dakota

From Jim Krantz:

Steve, Sara, Shari,

Our meeting is at 2:00 this afternoon and we would not deny anyone the right to attend. However, our agenda does not include a discussion of the bills you referenced. Also, there will may not be sufficient time for everyone, including those who previously committed, to speak as we have some presentations and a conference call on the agenda. There will be time for comments from those attending on the material presented. Please call me on my cell if you have questions. 480-1056. Thanks.

From SDFACT volunteers:

WNAX's website says that Mike Held stated "South Dakota ag groups will be getting together in Pierre on Monday to talk about SB 171."

Is there another time that works for us to meet?


Unfortunately we have not received any response from South Dakota Ag United or any other Ag entities they represent who oppose SB 171, even though it does not affect animal agriculture in South Dakota.  We’ve reached out for their support on numerous occasions, as have many of you. We even asked to attend their meeting on Monday to discuss SB 171.  It appears South Dakota Ag groups intend to defeat this bill. We don’t have a paid lobbyist, we are volunteers with full time jobs and can’t stand in the lobbies of every Ag group in the state and force them to meet with us. 

If you are one of the South Dakotans who says this is a common sense bill that should pass this session, you aren’t alone. Let’s hope South Dakota Legislators will see the merits of SB 171 and not allow misinformation from Ag entities that represent 18% of the South Dakota population.  Please make sure your voice has been heard by members of the Senate Ag Committee and urge them to send SB 171 to the Senate floor. Watch for SB 171 to be added to the committee agenda and attend the public hearing in Pierre to let legislators know South Dakotans want felony level penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty to protect our pets and communities from violent offenders.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SB 171 is as much about protecting communities from violent offenders as it is about protecting pets

Animal abuse never ends well and it is a red-flag to violent personalities and anti-social behavior. South Dakotans urge the passage of SB 171 to deter this behavior. This bill is as much about protecting communities from violent offenders as it is about protecting pets. 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. Serial killers and school shooters have histories of abusing animals. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo (the “Boston Strangler”) and many others committed heinous acts of animal cruelty before brutally maiming and killing their human victims. Over half of the infamous school shooters abused and tortured animals. (Miner, 1999)

The information below from the SPCALA further explains why SB 171 is as much about protecting South Dakota communities from violent offenders as it is about protecting pets.

Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years demonstrate that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized this connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research shows consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse and elder abuse.

  • High school killers such as 15-year-old Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Ore., and Luke Woodham, 16, in Pearl, Mississippi., tortured animals before embarking on shooting sprees.
  • Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot and killed 12 classmates before turning their guns on themselves, bragged about mutilating animals to their friends.
  • Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had impaled dogs’ heads, frogs, and cats on sticks.
  • Carroll Edward Cole, executed for five of the 35 murders of which he was accused, said his first act of violence as a child was to strangle a puppy.
  • Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler” who killed 13 women, trapped dogs and cats in orange crates and shot arrows through the boxes in his youth.
  • Patrick Sherrill, who killed 14 coworkers at a post office and then shot himself, had a history of stealing local pets and allowing his own dog to attack and mutilate them.
  • Brenda Spencer, who opened fire at a San Diego school, killing two children and injuring nine others, had repeatedly abused cats and dogs, often by setting their tails on fire.
  • Earl Kenneth Shriner, who raped, stabbed, and mutilated a 7-year-old boy, had been widely known in his neighborhood as the man who put firecrackers in dogs’ rectums and strung up cats.
  • In 1987, three Missouri high school students were charged with the beating death of a classmate. They had histories of repeated acts of animal mutilation starting several years earlier. One confessed that he had killed so many cats he’d lost count. Two brothers who murdered their parents had previously told classmates that they had decapitated a cat.

SB 171 isn’t just about protecting pets; it is about protecting South Dakota communities from violent offenders. Fortunately cases of malicious animal cruelty are rare but they must be treated like real crimes in South Dakota.

Contact members of the Senate Ag Committee via this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2013/CommitteeMembers.aspx?Committee=2. Ask them to send SB 171 to the Senate floor because South Dakotans want to protect our pets and communities from violent offenders.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ag entities meeting today in Pierre; animal advocates not invited

According to a recent story on WNAX Lobbyist Mike Held with the South Dakota Farm Bureau stated Ag groups are getting together today in Pierre to talk about SB 171. No one from SDFACT was invited to participate, in fact, we contacted all SD Ag groups asking to speak at their meeting and we received no response.

If you are a member of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, contact Executive Director Wayne Smith and Lobbyist Mike Held and let them know you want to see SB 171 passed in 2013.

We’d also like to correct Mr. Held’s remarks in the story:

1) These efforts are not coming from “out of state animal rights activists”. SDFACT is volunteer effort based right here in South Dakota and we are not getting ANY funding from HSUS or any other agency.

2) “Many ranchers use horses to work cattle”. This bill is only for aggravated cruelty that is malicious and intentional. An accident or injury that happens while herding cattle would not be applicable under this bill (assuming the owner gets the animal treatment and doesn't let it needlessly suffer).

You can read the complete bill at http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2013/Bills/SB171P.pdf and see for yourself that it will NOT affect agriculture in ANY way.

It seems Mr. Held is also concerned about the prospect of a ballot initiative and what it could cost agriculture to defeat. SB 171 has been introduced and our goal is to see it passed in 2013. Although animal advocates are frustrated, there has been no discussion of a ballot initiative because we believe the South Dakota Legislature will pass SB 171 because it is what South Dakotans want. We wish to discuss the merits of SB 171 and we dismiss attempts by Ag opposition to link SDFACT and all South Dakota animal advocates with national animal rights activists. Battling misinformation from Ag entities and their lack of interest in including South Dakota animal advocates in the conversation makes the battle to get SB 171 out of committee and to the Senate floor even greater. Please contact members of the senate Ag Committee today via this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2013/CommitteeMembers.aspx?Committee=2 and urge a 'do pass' of SB 171.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Will a fifth attempt to strengthen animal cruelty laws come to an end next week?

North Dakotans recently introduced a comprehensive animal cruelty bill to provide felony level penalties for the worst acts of cruelty and reform their animal cruelty code. SB 2211 will be heard ND’s Senate Ag Committee on January 24. The bill has overwhelming support from Ag entities and animal advocates alike. We congratulate North Dakotans for recognizing the link between animal cruelty & human violence, and applaud their efforts to pass meaningful legislation for animals in 2013.
If the ND bill passes, South Dakota will become the only state in the country without felony level penalties for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty. It will be a sad day in South Dakota when our fifth attempt at improving SD animal cruelty laws comes to an end. But don’t beat yourselves up and don’t blame the South Dakota Legislature – Ag interests dictate the legislative agenda in Pierre, so unless they are willing to come to the table we may never see laws improve for animals. 
The effort to strengthen SD animal cruelty laws started in 2008 when then forty-three states had enacted felony penalties for certain acts of animal cruelty – acknowledging the proven link to human violence. Animal advocates from across South Dakota began working together to introduce a bill in 2009.  HB 1146 prohibited the torture of animals and provided felony level penalties for the worst acts of cruelty. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Cutler, Krebs, Novstrup (David), Rausch, and Schrempp and Senators Abdallah, Dempster, Gillespie, and Gray. However when the bill was presented to the House Judiciary Committee, Ag lobbyists said the bill was too far reaching and could negatively impact animal agriculture; the bill died in committee.
In 2010, South Dakota advocates again tried to introduce a bill addressing the torture of animals but no sponsor was secured. In an effort to ward off a third attempt at strengthening SD animal cruelty laws, Ag entities formed the Animal Care Law Review group. The group was spearheaded by the South Dakota Pork Producers, SD Association of Cooperatives, SD Cattlemen’s Association, and South Dakota Farm Bureau. They invited the SD state vet, several members of the South Dakota Animal Control Association, several dog breeders and a SD humane society director to participate. Their report claimed they spent the summer gathering input from group members on South Dakota’s laws dealing with animal care and humane treatment. However in speaking with participants they met only twice and the moderator led group members to conclude no statutory changes are needed stating “South Dakota has a proud and rich history of animal ownership and husbandry.”

At the start of the eighty-sixth legislative session, the handout below was distributed to members of the House and Senate Ag committees. Lobbyists with the SD Association of Cooperatives, SD Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau and South Dakota Pork Producers presented the Animal Care Law Review group findings at committee meetings in January 2011. They reported SD’s existing animal laws are sufficient; the process for reporting and responding to cruelty complaints is solid; and only out-of-state radical anti-agriculture groups think South Dakota animal cruelty laws should change. That year, dozens of South Dakota animal advocates again contacted their legislators asking for the introduction of a bill addressing the torture of companion animals, but Ag lobbyists successfully blocked this effort citing the findings of their Animal Care Law Review group. 
In 2012 South Dakota animal advocates tried again; seeking protection for pets. In a forth attempt to introduce a bill, they presented legislators with a draft so specific it would make only the torture of cats and dogs a felony in South Dakota. Was this still too far reaching? Apparently so because Ag lobbyists went one step further and convinced legislators to introduce HCR 1006. This resolution, drafted by the South Dakota Farmers Union, was in opposition to certain actions by animal rights groups and it was sponsored by Representatives Fargen, Brunner, Conzet, Cronin, Dennert, Feickert, Gibson, Greenfield, Hawley, Hoffman, Hunhoff (Bernie), Iron Cloud III, Jones, Killer, Kirschman, Kloucek, Kopp, Lucas, Lust, Nelson (Stace), Olson (Betty), Rausch, Russell, Schaefer, Schrempp, Sigdestad, Street, Turbiville, Vanneman, Verchio, White, Wink, and Wismer and Senators Krebs, Begalka, Bradford, Brown, Frerichs, Gray, Hansen (Tom), Hundstad, Juhnke, Lederman, Maher, Nelson (Tom), Olson (Russell), Rampelberg, Rave, Rhoden, Schlekeway, Sutton, and Vehle. This resolution passed unanimously to support SD’s number one industry, agriculture – and legislators were not even willing to discuss a bill with their own constituents in the fear of being associated with radical anti-agriculture animal rights activists.
At the conclusion of the eighty-seventh legislative session, South Dakota animal advocates began discussing a bill that would protect companion animals and SD communities from violent offenders. It was specifically drafted to exempt traditional Ag practices in the hope this would appease members of Ag opposition. An all-volunteer grassroots group of South Dakotans began contacting their elected officials and district candidates about a felony companion animal cruelty bill prior to the November 2012 elections. In December support of legislators was secured but no prime sponsor identified.
This brings us to today – the bill introduction deadline for South Dakota’s eighty-eighth legislative session is just days away and we’ll keep trying to secure a prime sponsor. In the end South Dakota animal advocates may not succeed and our fifth attempt to pass a law forty-eight other states saw fit to pass years ago, may fail. We’ve done everything we can – we spoke up and we provided the facts.  Constituents in almost every legislative district contacted their leaders and we asked SD Ag organizations for their support but received no response.
The truth is Ag entities are using misinformation and fear tactics to influence legislators – our elected officials, the very individuals we selected to represent us. So we can thank Ag United, Midwest Dairy Association, South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, South Dakota Poultry Industries Association, South Dakota Corn Utilization Council, South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Beef Industry Council, South Dakota Soybean Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Pork Producers Council, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Dairy Producers, South Dakota Associations of Cooperatives and the South Dakota Farmers Union for the fact South Dakota pets still have no protection in 2013.
If you are a member of any of these groups call and ask them to champion this bill that excludes traditional Ag practices and protects companion animals. But if you aren’t a member – ask yourself why legislators place more emphasis on the wishes of 18% of our state’s population (those these Ag groups represent), than they do on the wishes of other South Dakotans. There is no reason South Dakota should be the only state in the country where it is okay for an individual to violently kick a Chihuahua until it’s unconscious and seizing; to beat a pet cat to death with a hammer; to bludgeon a prized hunting dog in its kennel; or to cut the ears off a puppy with a steak knife and receive a sentence that amounts to that of speeding ticket. These acts are violent. They need to be treated like real crimes. Malicious and intentional animal cruelty should be a felony, it is just that simple.

Why does South Dakota need felony penalties for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty?

South Dakota needs to treat violent acts of animal cruelty like real crimes. One would think admitting to beating your pet to death with a hammer would warrant a higher penalty than that of a speeding ticket - but not in our state.

According to a January 25, 2012 article in the Yankton Press & Dakotan, a Yankton woman was arrested after she allegedly pummeled her cat to death with a hammer. Mary Thompson, 52, was arrested for killing or injuring an animal, a class 1 misdemeanor just two days after the incident.

According police reports, the manager of Canyon Ridge Apartments called police at 11:40 a.m. on January 23 and said she witnessed Thompson killing a cat. The manager said she had gone to visit Thompson about having two cats in her apartment because tenants were allowed to have only one pet.

Thompson previously told the manager she would be giving away one of her cats. Upon being told that both cats still resided in the apartment, the manager again told Thompson that another home would have to be found for one of them. At that point, the manager told police Thompson went to the kitchen, grabbed a small hammer and went to the couch where one of the cats was resting. She then allegedly grabbed the cat by the neck and began to strike it on the head with the hammer. The manager said she began screaming and fled the apartment in fear because of what she had observed.

Another witness said he later saw Thompson holding what appeared to be a bag and leaving the apartment complex. A blanket was later found in a dumpster near the apartment. According to a police report, Thompson admitted to police that she had killed the cat and disposed of it in the dumpster before being arrested. Police chief Brian Paulsen said a search warrant was executed on the apartment Tuesday to see if the second cat was alive and to recover evidence.

We never heard anything further on this case after this initial report of the incident. We watched for an outcome and waited for media reports on the malicious bludgeoning of Thompson’s pet cat but nothing was reported. SDFACT recently pulled Thompson’s criminal records and according to a report from the South Dakota Unified Judicial System, Mary Thompson pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct on November 7, 2012 and was sentenced on December 19, 2012 to 14 days in jail suspended, a $166 fine, Thompson was required to repay Yankton County for her court appointed attorney and ordered to have no similar offenses for 360 days - once again a slap on the wrist for a violent offenders in South Dakota who viciously tortures a pet.

Violent acts of animal cruelty must be treated like real crimes in South Dakota because there is legitimate evidence that individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed. A felony companion animal cruelty law would provide prosecutors with another option when dealing with violent acts against pets. Contact your legislators today, share this story and ask them to sponsor and champion a felony animal cruelty bill in 2013 - because our pets and communities need protection now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Violent acts of animal cruelty don't happen often; but that doesn't mean we don't need stronger laws

Fortunately violent acts of animal cruelty don't happen often in South Dakota, but that doesn't mean we don't need stronger penalties, as opponents to this legislation suggest. In another effort to mislead the public, they claim there was only 1 case of animal cruelty in SD in 2012, sighting petabuse.com. According to SD DCI statistics, there were 97 arrests for animal cruelty in the last 5 years (including one for bestiality) and our research shows that only a small percentage of those cases are truly violent acts against pets.

Regardless, the opposition's argument makes no sense. So we shouldn't have strict laws for murder in South Dakota because it doesn't happen very often? We see an average of 22 murders each year in South Dakota, does that mean we don't need laws in place to deter behavior and protect the public?

The fact is felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty against pets will provide prosecutors with another option when dealing with violent offenders. Felony animal cruelty laws may not be used often, as our friends in Nebraska admit, but for cases like Shy's, where a beloved family pet is beaten to death - the consequences need to be more severe.

In June 2011, Shy, the Ludwig family's German Shorthaired Pointer and prized hunting dog was brutally beaten to death with a hammer by one of their Burbank neighbors. A witness heard the dog screaming and saw Robert Kyte leaving Shy's kennel with a bloody hammer. Chief Deputy Jerami West said "It kind of makes your heart drop. Who could do this to animal? It appeared to me as rage."

Initially, Kyte was charged with killing or injuring the animal of another (a Class 1 misdemeanor), as well as intentional damage to property in the first degree (a Class 6 felony). The felony charge for destruction of property (Ludwig's dog) was only possible because Shy was a prized hunting dog and his value was over $1000. Obviously most pets adopted from shelters and rescues aren't valued at $1000+ so this charge was rare. Had the felony charge been maintained, Kyte could have faced up to two years imprisonment in the state penitentiary, a fine of $5,000 or both. However in August 2011, Clay County State's Attorney Teddi Gertsema said Kyte plead guilty to intentional damage to property in the second degree and killing or injuring the animal of another, both of which are Class 1 misdemeanors. Kyte was sentenced to no jail time, a fine of $300 plus $84 in court costs for each misdemeanor count. Now those consequences certainly don't mirror the actions according to the Ludwig family and many other South Dakotans.

There is legitimate evidence that individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed. The Ludwigs know this well and they are imploring people to write their leaders to increase the penalty of a crime like this, "We have four children, two are younger and they are scared to go outside now because of him [Robert Kyte] and what he's done, terrorized our family and brutally killed our dog," said Kim Ludwig.

The South Dakota Legislature must take action in 2013 because our animals need protection now. We are one of only 2 states in the country without felony penalties for the most malicious and violent acts of animal cruelty and we need your help. Email your legislators now using this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/who/index.aspx and call the Senator Lobby at 605.773.3821 and the House Lobby at 605.773.3851. You can leave a message with the lobby receptionist following up on the email you sent - ask your legislators to create and pass a felony companion animal cruelty bill in 2013. There are only a few more legislative days to get a bill introduced this session and our pets can't wait until 2014.

South Dakota ranks last in country for animal protection laws; HSUS 2012 Humane State Ranking Report

On Tuesday the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released its 2012 Humane State Ranking report, a comprehensive analysis of animal protection laws in all 50 states and Washington, DC. States were graded on the strength of laws to reduce animal suffering, including animal cruelty codes, equine protection standards and wildlife management. South Dakota has once again been ranked last, scoring a mere 14 percent. South Dakota & North Dakota are the only two states with no felony-level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty which contributes to their low rankings. To see the complete HSUS 2012 Humane State Rankings, click here.

South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT) is a local grassroots group of South Dakotans advocating for felony companion animal cruelty laws. The group is currently working on securing a 2013 bill sponsor for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty to protect pets and the safety of our communities. “Constituents in almost every South Dakota district have contacted their legislators,” says Sara Parker of Sioux Falls. “We’ve even reached out to South Dakota Ag organizations who have voiced opposition to prior legislative efforts.” SDFACT believes South Dakota Legislators will listen to their constituents and introduce a bill in 2013 that protects pets and is also palpable to Ag entities.

Current penalties for starting a cat on fire are the same as writing a bad check and this doesn’t sit well with South Dakotans. “I’m a South Dakota native and I have been advocating for animals for many years,” says Shari Crouch Kosel of Lead. “An individual would receive a stiffer penalty for destroying a painting of a dog than torturing and destroying the actual dog; we simply want to protect pets and our communities from violent offenders.” There is legitimate evidence that individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed.

While statistics show South Dakota sees only a small number of violent animal cruelty cases annually, SDFACT says this doesn’t mean felony penalties are not needed. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study in which 85.4 percent of women and 63.0 percent of children reported incidents of pet abuse after arriving at domestic violence shelters. Intentional animal abuse is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault and domestic violence – and can be one of the most visible parts of an entire history of aggressive or antisocial behavior.

Please contact your South Dakota legislators today. The bill filing deadline is next week (January 23) and we don’t want to wait until 2014 to get protection for our pets. Email us at sdfact@gmail.com if you would like supportive documents and tips on contacting your legislators.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Is the SD felony companion animal cruelty draft still too far reaching?

Opponents say the felony companion animal cruelty draft is still too far reaching? Really? Because we took the advice of South Dakota lawmakers and Ag lobbyists when developing the proposed draft. This makes us wonder - will they find issue with any law that offers some protection for pets? One member of the opposition recently stated "if a sick old dog is suffering and the owner puts it out of its misery with a bullet, that would be considered a felony." That information is inaccurate - current law allows this and that will not change. Putting down a beloved pet that is aging and ill would not be considered a felony because it isn't aggravated cruelty - it just isn't malicious, it is an act of compassion.

Both lawmakers and Ag lobbyists have suggested a bill specific to companion animals that does not interfere with South Dakota animal husbandry practices like branding, castrating bull calves and emergency C-sections on cows. In fact here's what the South Dakota Farm Bureau's lobbyist told The Daily Republic in a September 2009 article titled Woman circulating petition to change state's cruelty law"if a bill was written that excluded livestock practices done by ranchers and producers, officials would have to take a look at the language before passing judgment on it."  In the same article Lawmaker Mike Vehle of Mitchell told The Daily Republic "if an animal cruelty penalty change bill is to be reintroduced, lawmakers will need to work with agriculture entities to make sure it doesn't negatively impact how farms and ranches operate."

So our question is why has Ag opposition blocked the reintroduction of a bill for the past 3 years? Can't South Dakotans discuss the merits of this bill in a legislative committee? We expected misinformation to surface, but not before a bill is even introduced. Come on, let's get a bill introduced so it can be discussed in committee by Ag entities and South Dakota animal advocates alike. Unfortunately, the deadline to introduce legislation is January 23 - next Wednesday. We know constituents in almost every South Dakota district have contacted their legislators for sponsorship and support. Some are sympathetic, some commit to considering the bill and others have not even replied to their own constituents. Let's hope they've just been busy and some sponsors and supporters will step forward this week because South Dakotans want protection for our pets and communities now. A working draft of the proposed felony companion animal bill is provided below. Remember your legislators work for you, so if you haven't received a response, call the Senator Lobby at 605.773.3821 and the House Lobby at 605.773.3851 now. You can leave a message with the lobby receptionist following up on the email you sent - ask your legislators to create and pass a felony companion animal cruelty bill in 2013. If you haven't contacted your legislators because you thought others were making it happen - contact them today. This is a grassroots effort and we need everyone's help!

State of South Dakota
EIGHTY-EIGHTH SESSION
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, 2013

HOUSE BILL  NO.  XXXX
Introduced by: __________________________________

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for felony penalties for aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That Chapter 40-1 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
40-1-27.1 Aggravated cruelty as felony.  No person may maliciously and intentionally cause the mistreatment, torture, or cruelty of any dog, cat, or horse resulting in serious injury, serious illness, or death of the dog, cat, or horse.  A violation of this section is a class 6 felony. “Serious injury” means any injury that creates a substantial risk of death, leaves a dog, cat, or horse significantly disfigured, causes broken bones, or causes prolonged impairment of health. “Serious illness” means any illness or starvation that creates a substantial risk of death, leaves a dog, cat, or horse significantly disfigured, or causes prolonged impairment of health. “Torture” includes but is not limited to burning, poisoning, crushing, suffocating, impaling, drowning, blinding, skinning, fatal beating, fatal dragging, fatal exsanguination, disemboweling or dismemberment of a dog, cat or horse.

This section may not be construed to prohibit:
(1)     Hunting, trapping, fishing, or any other activity regulated under Title 41;
(2)     The marking of an animal for identification, and any other activity that is a usual and customary practice in production agriculture;
(3)     Examination, testing, individual treatment, operation, or euthanasia performed by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian;
(4)     Lawful medical or scientific research conducted at a public or private facility or laboratory by or under the direction of a qualified researcher; and
(5)     Any lawful activity undertaken to protect a person’s life or property from a serious threat caused by a dog, cat, or horse.

Any person who violates this section may also, at the discretion of the court, be ordered to undergo psychological or psychiatric evaluation and obtain psychological counseling, including counseling in responsible pet ownership or animal cruelty prevention, for which the person shall bear any costs incurred; and not to own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for up to five years after the date of the sentencing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Governor's criminal justice reform & felony animal cruelty laws in 2013

The Governor is right. In fact, just to show how badly we need criminal justice reform in South Dakota, let’s look at how it is a felony if someone destroys a $1000 portrait of a person’s dog, but if they maliciously torture and kill that person’s actual dog - it is only a misdemeanor. Something just doesn’t seem right, huh? There is legitimate evidence that individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed.

While we know the Governor's criminal justice reform is designed to reduce South Dakota's inmate population, we don't believe this will hamper our efforts in 2013 to increase penalties for the most malicious acts of animal cruelty. It is important to note felony penalties will not increase the number of cases in the court system. Cases are being prosecuted now under existing misdemeanor animal cruelty laws. The proposed law would simply elevate violent acts against pets to a felony allowing SD judges to mandate health evaluations, counseling, heftier fines and incarceration to protect the public.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study in which 85.4 percent of women and 63.0 percent of children reported incidents of pet abuse after arriving at domestic violence shelters. Intentional animal abuse is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault and domestic violence – and can be one of the most visible parts of an entire history of aggressive or antisocial behavior.

So don’t let anyone tell you 2013 just isn’t the year for South Dakota to strengthen animal cruelty laws. The Governor's criminal justice reform doesn’t include putting dangerous inmates back on the streets; he wants to protect the public from violent offenders. We want felony penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty to protect our pets and communities from violent offenders – sounds like we have the same goal so contact your legislators today and ask them to strengthen animal cruelty laws in 2013 as a part of criminal justice reform.