Animal Cruelty Could Become Felony in South Dakota

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South Dakota is the only US state with no felony penalties for crimes of animal cruelty, but that might change in 2014. Animal advocates, the agricultural interests which represent livestock producers, and other relevant parties reached a compromise last year that has led to a bill that will be introduced in the Senate Agriculture Committee this session.

Under current laws, the penalty for setting a cat on fire is comparable to that for writing a bad check, according to SD FACT (South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together), the advocacy group which prepared the following news release on the legislation, which will give protection, or at lease some chance at justice, for the state’s dogs, cats and horses.



January 9, 2014 – Years of conversations and compromise are starting to show results, as SD FACT (South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together) and the South Dakota Ag community came together to bring forward felony cruelty laws in 2014.

In August, 2013 SD FACT volunteers were invited to sit down with members of the South Dakota Ag community, the Sheriff’s Association, the State’s Attorneys Association, Dr. Oedekoven, and other interested parties. Senator Krebs, Representative Hajek, and representatives from the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society were in attendance via telephone. State Senator Shantel Krebs and State Veterinarian, Dustin Oedekoven led the discussion.

The measure, SB 46,  would make it a felony to commit certain acts of malicious, intentional torture against animals, and fight animals. It would also clarify that standard accepted livestock-raising practices are not mistreatment. Current penalties for starting a cat on fire are the same as a bad check.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study in which 85.4 percent of women and 63.0 percent of children reported incidents of pet abuse after arriving at domestic violence shelters. Intentional animal abuse is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault and domestic violence – and can be one of the most visible parts of an entire history of aggressive or antisocial behavior. Currently, South Dakota is the only state without felony-level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty.

To learn more about SDFACT’s efforts to pass felony animal cruelty laws in 2014 visit their Facebook page at and read their blog at and website

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