South Dakota consistently tops a list that we do not want to be on.
We are one of the most permissive states when it comes to the abuse of animals.
With the passage of stricter laws in North Dakota this past year, South Dakota is left as the only state without felony penalties for animal mistreatment.
But, a new bill making animal abuse a felony will be brought to the South Dakota legislature this session. As of now, South Dakota is the only state without this type of law on the books.
Regional Manager for South Dakota Farm Bureau, Bonnie Dybedahl, said,
"I think some of the things happening in some of our neighboring states has prompted this to happen. But I think it's just timing of all of us being willing now to come to an agreement."
Agriculture and non-agriculture groups came together to work on this proposal.
"I think a big part of this is the people in our state have been very willing to come together and to make something that works fore everyone now." Dybedahl said.
Right now, the worst punishment there is? A misdemeanor.
"So you could start a kitten on fire and you could get the same level of punishment as writing a bad check or a speeding ticket. So the punishment currently does not fit the crime." Said Sara Parker who volunteers for South Dakotan's Fighting Animal Cruelty Together.
If this bill is passed:
Abuse of companion animals would be reported to local law enforcement or humane society.
Live stock animal abuse complaints would still be sent to the State Veterinary Office and assessed from there.
An animal cruelty bill has failed in the past, but Parker feels 2014 will be the year.
"We've had a couple meetings with a lot of interested parties and lots of open discussion, people being honest about their fears and concerns, so I feel really good about where we are."
Parker says people don't always know animal abuse laws are so relaxed here, but once they find out, they want to help.
SD FACT's Facebook page is updated regularly about the bill, as well as ways for people to get involved and volunteer.
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