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OPINION: Animal protection laws in SD too weak

Darci Adams

You can't say Sioux Falls without South Dakota, and that's where this animal advocate grew up, and grew into my role as South Dakota state director for The Humane Society of the United States. As a homegrown animal lover, I take issue with a Jan. 4 column by Steve Dick. The author sought to mislead your readers about the great work of The HSUS and slight the work of hundreds of South Dakota animal advocates who want better animal welfare laws in this state.

It's been 15 years since I first took my passion for pets to the South Dakota Capitol. After working alongside other South Dakotans to try and get better kennel standards for dogs, we fought against discriminatory dog laws, and have tried to get a felony animal cruelty law. I have watched as every other state, with the exception of neighboring North Dakota, pulled ahead of us in strengthening laws against egregious acts of cruelty to animals. The HSUS ranks South Dakota at the bottom of the list for lax animal welfare laws.

Our support of measures that would help to end animal suffering and our disapproval of laws that fail to protect animals should not surprise anyone. We were established in 1954 to tackle animal abuse and prevent cruelty. The HSUS is a 4-star-rated charity by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the No. 1 highimpact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

Our success at protecting animals from abuses at puppy mills, animal fighting rings and other settings attracts foes, which apparently includes Mr. Dick. They seek to mislead people about The HSUS in an attempt to distract from the issues at hand. Simply put, The HSUS was established to fight tough battles against cruelty -- not to fund or replicate the work of shelters. Our work supports not only pets, but animals from aardvarks to zonkeys, shelters, law enforcement and communities, animal and human alike.

The HSUS provided direct care for 76,955 animals in 2011 and more than 90,000 in 2012 -- through rescue, rehabilitation, veterinary care and sanctuary. We also support local animal shelters and rescue groups with training, national conferences, our magazine Animal Sheltering and website animalsheltering.org and our Shelter Pet Project public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council, which has generated more than $100 million in free advertising to support local animal shelters and rescue groups. We aid shelters when natural disasters and cruelty cases overwhelm their capacity to respond, such as when Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast.

In the last five years alone, The HSUS has provided more than $1.2 million in veterinary care services -- free spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations and pet wellness services -- for more than 5,000 animals on South Dakota's American Indian reservations. In 2011, The HSUS helped shelter pets affected by the Yankton floods. In 2012, our Prairie Dog Coalition assisted South Dakota biologists with a prairie dog translocation project, co-sponsored the sixth annual Endangered Species Day and encouraged advocates to participate in Humane Lobby Day. These funds do not flow through other groups to perform this work, because we have our own veterinarians, our own wildlife responders, our own animal rescuers and programs.

Mr. Dick calls South Dakota a target, but I call it the state with the weakest animal welfare laws on the books. And it's my state, and my fellow South Dakota natives, animal lovers, friends, family members and HSUS members will work to make it a safe place for our pets with or without Mr. Dick's support. To learn more and get involved, visit us at humanesociety.org.

Darci Adams, based in Hartford, is the South Dakota state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

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