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South Dakota Lawmakers Urged to Make Animal Cruelty a Felony

State Now Last in the Nation without Felony Animal Cruelty Penalties

South Dakota is the only state in the country without felony-level penalties for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty, after North Dakota lawmakers added tougher penalties for animal cruelty. Animal welfare advocates urge South Dakotan lawmakers to act quickly to bring the state in line with the rest of the country.

“South Dakota has some of the weakest animal abuse penalties in the country and now we are the only state in the nation without any felony provisions for animal cruelty,” said Darci Adams, South Dakota state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “South Dakotans want felony-level penalty for egregious acts of animal cruelty and I urge state lawmakers to add tougher penalties when the legislature convenes next year.”

A South Dakota Senate committee rejected Senate Bill 171 this session. The legislation would have made aggravated cruelty against dogs, cats and horses a class 6 felony. S.B. 171 excluded farming and ranching practices, but agriculture groups lobbied heavily against it. The bill received support from South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together and numerous shelters and rescues in the state. South Dakota ranks last in The HSUS’ 2012 Humane State Rankings due to its weak animal protection laws.

The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault.

The North Dakota measure establishes felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty and maintains protections for the state’s agricultural producers. It passed both chambers by wide margins and was signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple yesterday.

Media Contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras: rcontreras@humanesociety.org, 301-721-6440

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