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Saturday, January 19, 2013

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.

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