To answer this question we must look at who is outwardly opposing our on-going efforts to create felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty against companion animals. On January 4th we found the answer in Steve Dick's opinion column in the Mitchell Republic. Dick represents Ag United which according to their website, is sponsored by 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 and South Dakota Dairy Producers.
So it is actually South Dakota big Ag lobby who continue to block efforts to improve animal cruelty laws here. Let's not be surprised if a few individuals or organizations come out against stronger animal cruelty laws, just dig a little deeper and you'll find the link between them and the South Dakota Ag opposition.
The question we cannot answer is why SD Ag opposes felony animal cruelty laws because it will not affect animal agriculture. Maybe big Ag has something to hide? We don't think so because South Dakota family farmers and ranchers take great pride in the care of their livestock and pets.
Maybe Ag lobbyists have convinced our legislators it is a slippery slope - in no time South Dakota will have liberal laws like the state of California? We don't think so because only South Dakotans drive the laws here and we are proud of the fact Ag is our number one industry.
Maybe Ag opposition has scared legislators into believing South Dakota advocates are crazy animal rights activists? We don't think so because we are just normal South Dakotans and this is a grassroots effort to protect companion animals - the animals who most commonly fall victim to these violent crimes.
The truth is we may never really know why South Dakota big Ag continues to oppose felony animal cruelty laws while 48 other states enjoy a viable Ag economy and have felony animal cruelty laws on the books. But now that we know who is for animal cruelty, we'll keep fighting for better laws in our state. We are South Dakota animal advocates with the facts about animal cruelty in South Dakota and the desire to see things change for animals in our state. May the force be with us as session starts on Tuesday and who knows - maybe our legislators will bring Ag opposition and animal advocates to the table and get this done in 2013 because it is what South Dakotans want.