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.