Animal advocates are still fighting to keep animals safe in South Dakota, which came in dead last for animal protection laws in the Humane Society of the United States’ 2012 Humane State Ranking that was published last week.
The HSUS graded states based on their policies dealing with animal protection, pets, animal fighting, farm animals and animals used in research. According to the HSUS, “South Dakota is one of only two states with no felony level penalties for egregious acts of cruelty, and also has some of the weakest laws against cockfighting in the country.” South Dakota was also ranked in the bottom five states in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2012 animal protection law rankings.
Now, a grassroots organization, South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT), is fighting even harder to get an animal protection bill introduced and passed this session. Their efforts have received support from legislators, but the bill still doesn’t have a sponsor.
According to the group:
The effort to strengthen SD animal cruelty laws started in 2008 when then forty-three states had enacted felony penalties for certain acts of animal cruelty – acknowledging the proven link to human violence. Animal advocates from across South Dakota began working together to introduce a bill in 2009. HB 1146 prohibited the torture of animals and provided felony level penalties for the worst acts of cruelty. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Cutler, Krebs, Novstrup (David), Rausch, and Schrempp and Senators Abdallah, Dempster, Gillespie, and Gray. However when the bill was presented to the House Judiciary Committee, Ag lobbyists said the bill was too far reaching and could negatively impact animal agriculture; the bill died in committee.
Repeated attempts to pass legislation protecting companion animals have been thwarted by special interests. In 2012, animal advocates again attempted to have legislation passed that would only make torturing cats and dogs a felony in the state, which one would think would be a no-brainer. In response, Ag groups went above and beyond to block efforts to protect cats and dogs and convinced legislators to pass a resolution that opposed any attempt for any ballot initiative or other actions by animal advocacy groups that could potentially “undermine the livelihood of agricultural producers.”
Animal advocates in the state are now working to pass a bill that would protect companion animals in the state from violent abusers, which specifically exempts agricultural practices in the hope that it will not be opposed this time around.
“There is no reason South Dakota should be the only state in the country where it is okay for an individual to violently kick a Chihuahua until it’s unconscious and seizing; to beat a pet cat to death with a hammer; to bludgeon a prized hunting dog in its kennel; or to cut the ears off a puppy with a steak knife and receive a sentence that amounts to that of speeding ticket. These acts are violent. They need to be treated like real crimes. Malicious and intentional animal cruelty should be a felony, it is just that simple,” according to the group.
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