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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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.

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