The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee rejected Senate Bill 171 on Tuesday in Pierre, S.D. with agricultural groups voting against the new legislation stating the current animal abuse and cruelty laws and punishments already work in their state.
Senate Bill 171 would have made egregious cases of animal cruelty felonies which would carry a maximum of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. The new legislation would give judges the discretion to levy stronger punishments as well as order mental health evaluations for convicted animal abusers.
Experts agree there is a strong correlation between those who abuse animals and commit violent crimes against humans. Often domestic violence cases involving the victim's pets escalates into dire consequences for women and children stuck in abusive relationships and who are afraid to seek help in fear their pets will be killed or tortured.
Sadly SB 171 lost out to the lobbyists who contend that the bill has been influenced by the Humane Society of the United States and other out of state groups trying to end animal agriculture. In reality however, the bill excluded hunting, fishing, trapping, branding, and other practices customary in farming and ranching.
The "Let's Pass Felony Animal Cruelty Laws in SD," is a grassroots effort of concerned citizens who want to protect pets from violent offenders. Their Facebook page expressed the group's sentiments regarding today's negative vote:
"SB 171 was deferred to the 41st day (essentially killing the bill). It didn’t sound like any members of the Senate Ag Committee had listened to the answers SDFACT had given in the past to their questions & concerns, as they were just parroting what we’ve been hearing from Big Ag. Three commercial dog breeders (including one who sells EIGHT different breeds of dogs), the State Vet, the Secretary of Ag, and the South Dakota Farm Bureau testified in opposition for the opposition. Big Ag controls what happens up in Pierre and we think South Dakotans deserve to know that 18% of our population dictates public policy for the entire state."
Last week the North Dakota Senate passed felony legislation for animal cruelty and abuse. Senate Bill 2211 unanimously passed which will increase penalties for animal abuse, neglect, and abandonment. SB2211 now heads to the House of Representatives.
Is South Dakota going to be the only state in America without a felony punishment for egregious animal cruelty? Any and all horrific crimes towards any dog, cat, or horse is now considered a misdemeanor.
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