My home state of South Dakota hasn’t been a particular hot spot for animal rights activist activity. However, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which ranks South Dakota “dead last” for animal cruelty laws, is beginning to have a larger presence here.
South Dakota and North Dakota are the only states without felony-level penalties for animal cruelty. This puts a big, red bull’s eye on the backs of my state’s livestock producers. In this year’s legislative session, one bill already has surfaced that aims to make changes to the state’s animal welfare laws.
Senate Bill 171, co-sponsored by Sens. Stan Adelstein, (R-Rapid City); Dan Lederman, (R-Dakota Dunes); and Reps. Paula Hawks, (D-Hartford); and Anne Hajek, (R-Sioux Falls), states: “No person may maliciously and intentionally cause the mistreatment, torture, or cruelty of any dog, cat, or horse resulting in serious injury, serious illness, or the death of the dog, cat, or horse. A violation of this section is a Class 6 felony. No person may own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for five years after the date of the sentencing.” While not directly impacting livestock production, it could be said that this bill, if passed, will set a precedent for future rulings affecting animal owners in South Dakota.
Many are arguing that meaningful change in regard to animal welfare should be made by South Dakota residents, not outside parties like HSUS. That’s why more than 70 agricultural groups in South Dakota have teamed up to create an animal well-being leadership group.
This group is being led by the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Service, along with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and Ag United For South Dakota. This group will focus on educating the general public and leading the discussion on animal welfare topics. SDSU Extension beef specialist Jim Krantz is tirelessly working to bring this group together, and his efforts have started getting attention around the state. You can read more about this group here.
South Dakota is taking steps to protect the interests of farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen and pet-owners in the state. In 2012, the state passed legislation that, “opposes any attempt for any ballot initiative or acts by the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and other animal rights groups that would undermine the livelihood of agricultural producers.” This bill had bipartisan support and set the standard for future bills that might interfere with the state’s leading economic drivers.
Has your agricultural group or state developed a similar strategy toward warding off unnecessary legislation and taking charge of the animal welfare conversation? Are there any bills related to animal welfare that have been introduced in your state in 2013? If so, share this information and the local response in the comments section below.