Ensure Animal Cruelty is Made a Felony

Target: South Dakota legislators

Goal: Commend South Dakota for proposing bill to make animal cruelty a felony

South Dakota may soon make animal cruelty a felony by passing a bill satisfying both livestock producers and animal welfare groups, says state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven. Inhumane treatment of animals is currently a misdemeanor in the state, and some animal welfare groups have said it is the only state without felony penalties for animal mistreatment. Bring South Dakota up to speed and protect animal rights by supporting the new bill.

The proposal will come before state legislature in 2014, and make it a felony to commit malicious, intentional acts of torture or mutilation against animals. It will also clarify that standard accepted livestock-raising practices are not mistreatment.

Animal cruelty bills have been rejected in the past due to concerns from livestock producers. “What it really comes down to is that the ag groups have taken charge of this. Instead of being on defense on the introduction of this type of legislation, they’ve decided to be at the table in drafting this legislation,” Oedekoven said. “In doing so, we have created the felony penalty for certain acts which I think all agree are terrible acts and we would agree a felony penalty would be appropriate. We’ve also been careful to clarify in general that standard accepted ag practices are not considered mistreatment or cruelty.”

If the bill is passed, it would make intentional and malicious acts of torture or other cruelty a Class 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.  Currently, inhumane treatment of animals is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The only current felony involving cruelty to animals is dog fighting.

The Industry Board investigate all complaints of livestock neglect, and most turn out not to be neglect, according to Oedekoven. Most problems are solved by educating livestock owners, he said.

The Animal Industry Board, which oversees livestock health in the state, has approved a draft of the compromise and will soon be introduced for consideration. Commend legislators for proposing this bill and ask them to pass it.


Dear South Dakota legislators,

Thank you for introducing a bill to make animal cruelty a felony. The current misdemeanor punishment is not even close to enough punishment for willful cruelty to an animal. Making cruelty a felony will hopefully deter would be abusers who don’t want to face the punishment.

Please pass this important bill. As some animal welfare groups have said, South Dakota is one of the only states in which animal cruelty is not a felony. This needs to change. Please protect animals with all your power.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Tim Dawson via Wikimedia Commons

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