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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

South Dakota - the only state in our nation without any felony penalties for malicious animal cruelty

bill providing new protections for North Dakota animals leaves South Dakota as the last remaining state in the nation without felony penalties for the worst acts of animal cruelty.

We must congratulate North Dakota animal advocates who have worked on this bill for many years and even battled big Ag in a ballot measure last fall. Today the North Dakota legislature passed a bill that
 establishes first-offense felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty toward all animals and third-offense felony penalties for repeat offenders of lesser acts of abuse. The Senate-passed bill originally included third-offense felony penalties for repeat acts of neglect, but the House stripped that provision from the bill, which now treats neglect only as a misdemeanor, regardless of how many times it occurs. SB 2211 also provides some minimum welfare standards for dogs and cats in high volume breeding operations. After a long session with many amendments and exemptions for usual and customary practices used in livestock production, animal racing, rodeos, hunting and fishing the Senate passed the bill 43-3 and the House voted 80-12. The North Dakota Governor is expected to sign SB 2211 later this week.

So what does this mean for our efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws in South Dakota? Well we know Ag entities worked with animal advocates to create this bill that worked for everyone in North Dakota. That is our hope for the 2014 legislative session, because this isn’t about outside animal rights groups imposing their agenda on South Dakota. It is about providing prosecutors and judges with the option of stronger penalties in the most violent cases of animal cruelty to protect our pets and communities from these offenders.

SDFACT is doing our part. As highlighted in a recent article in the Tri State Neighbor, several of our volunteers will meet with Senator Krebs, the State Vet and staff from the Secretary of Ag's office next week. We are seeking their input on SB 171, the bill introduced by Senator Adelstein and Representative Hajek this session that would have made aggravated cruelty against dogs, cats and horses a class 6 felony. Although SB 171 excluded farming and ranching practices, Ag groups lobbied heavily against it, saying current animal abuse and cruelty statutes are adequate. The good news is that our bill is much simpler than the North Dakota version and we want to ensure it in no way affects South Dakota’s number one industry, agriculture.

So let’s not be discouraged, we know South Dakotans want stronger animal cruelty laws as outlined in a recent Aberdeen American News editorial. We ask all of our SDFACT followers to do their part in coming months – be a voice for animals. Comment on news articles or political blogs that discuss these efforts. Submit a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Share information through social media and be prepared to engage with your elected officials as we work toward a felony animal cruelty bill in 2014. For more information on specific cases in South Dakota please scroll through our previous blog posts. We are excited about moving forward with this legislation and we’ll keep you posted. You are the voice for the animals of South Dakota!

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