Target: Brian Gosch, Speaker for the South Dakota House of Representatives
Goal: Pass legislation to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota
South Dakota remains the only state with no felony charges for animal cruelty. A measure will soon be put before the Legislature, however, that is expected to pass with enough support. The weak penalties that South Dakota currently has for animal abusers are decades behind the rest of the country and will never act as a deterrent, especially for repeat offenders. Animals in South Dakota deserve to be protected and these laws must be changed immediately.
Currently, the most severe punishment for animal cruelty is a maximum $2,000 fine and one year in prison. The only animal-related crime that can result in a felony is dog fighting, but the felony charge is not because of how heinous the crime is, but because of the gambling associated with it. The reason for the weak laws is resistance from livestock producers. Several bills have been presented in the past, but were repeatedly voted down because of pressure from the agriculture industry. State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven believes this bill will see success because it establishes that “standard accepted livestock-raising practices are not mistreatment.” Meaning, the law would ensure livestock producers are in no way affected as long as they uphold the standards for treatment of farm and work animals.
If it passes, the bill would make intentional and malicious acts of cruelty or abuse a Class 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. It would also end years of debate and frustration between animal welfare groups and those in the agriculture industry, hopefully increasing the chances of future improvements to the state’s animal cruelty laws.
Please take a moment to sign the petition below and finally make animal cruelty a felony in all fifty states. South Dakota’s current laws are unacceptable and this could be our best chance to change that.
Dear Speaker Gosch,
A bill will soon be presented to the state Legislature intending to make animal cruelty a felony. South Dakota is currently the only state in the country that does not have any felony penalties for animal torture, cruelty, or neglect mostly due to pressure from livestock producers. Animals deserve our protection and it is appalling that South Dakota is so far behind when it comes to punishing those who would cause so much suffering.
Please pass this bill so that all fifty states will finally hold animal cruelty in the same regard as other violent crimes. This may be your best chance and the animals of South Dakota shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Le Howl Studio via Flickr