SD ranks last for animal protectionWhen it comes to legislation protecting animals, South Dakota is ranked last in the nation, according to a report by the Humane Society of the United States.
By: Calvin Men, The Aberdeen American News
When it comes to legislation protecting animals, South Dakota is ranked last in the nation, according to a report by the Humane Society of the United States.
South Dakota has been ranked last since the society began releasing ranks in 2009.
Among the society’s main concern is the lack of felony laws against malicious acts of violence against companion animals, said Darci Adams, director for South Dakota Humane Society.
“We’re working on a felony statute that would make it a felony against the most malicious acts against a companion animal,” she said.
The statute would classify inhumane acts against animals as a Class 6 felony, the lowest class of felonies.
South Dakota legislation classifies inhumane treatment of animals as a misdemeanor.
“We have been working on trying to get one passed and the (South Dakota) Legislature has yet to pass one,” said Andi Bernat, director of state legislation for the humane society’s national office based in Washington, D.C. “It’s something that’s a very high priority for us in the state and we really encourage the Legislature to act on it.”
Bernat said the society has spent several years trying to find a South Dakota legislator to sponsor a bill that would make inhumane treatment of an animal a felony.
But the society has yet to find a legislator willing to do so.
“I think there’s some opposition to (introducing the laws),” Bernat said.
But Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, a farmer and rancher, said stricter laws aren’t needed.
“Agricultural people in South Dakota are very concerned about their animals, whether they’re farm cats or livestock,” Feickert said. “I just don’t see where in South Dakota — with the laws that we have in place and the people that we have — that we have need for another law.”
He added current state legislation is enough to protect animals.
“You’re going to find situations where people are negligent. But I don’t know if adding more laws and felony charges is the answer,” he said. “If people do their job and they see neglect, they will turn them in.”
South Dakota sorts inhumane animal treatment complaints into two categories: livestock and companion animals. Livestock cases are investigated by veterinarians, while companion animal cases are handled by local law enforcement and the local humane society, according to Dustin Oedekoven, the state veterinarian.
Any legislation in regard to livestock welfare would do little for the animals and might hurt the state’s animal agricultural industry, he said.
“That’s not to say the livestock in South Dakota are not well-protected by the laws put in place. It just means some of these laws put into the place are not in the best interest of South Dakotan animal agriculture,” he said. “And there may be little actual effect to the welfare of animals as a result of some of the legislation that’s been proposed.”
While Oedekoven isn’t opposed to a higher penalty for animal abusers, he said the charge of a Class 1 misdemeanor is on par with other states’ charges of felonies against animal abusers.
“I think we have a good system where the animal welfare law is laid out in our state law.”