South Dakota Animal Cruelty Bill Balances Agriculture and Animal Welfare

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A bill proposed in the South Dakota legislature would make intentional and malicious acts of torture or other cruelty to animals a Class 6 Felony with a maximum penalty of two years in a prison and a $4,000 fine.  That’s an adjustment from current law which rules the offense a misdemeanor  with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and $2,000 fine.  The proposal comes after years of pushing by animal welfare groups.  The laws is intended to end debate but also strike a careful balance between livestock producers and welfare groups.  South Dakota is currently the only state in which inhumane treatment of animals is not a felony.
The bill comes after years of rejection of previous bills amid fears by livestock groups that the law will interfere with animal care.  The difference this time, according to state veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, is that ag groups have taken charge of this draft.  In doing so, Dr. Oedekoven said the groups were able to come to agreement on acts that “all agree are terrible and would agree a felony penalty would be appropriate” for.  He said the bill also specifies that standard accepted ag practices are not considered maltreatment or cruelty.
The Animal Industry Board investigates all complaints of livestock neglect and according to Dr. Oedekoeven, most turn out not to be guilty.  He also said most current problems are solved through educations of owners.  The board approved the compromise draft in October.  The bill will officially be introduced for consideration when the South Dakota legislative session opens January 14th.

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