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.