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SD lawmakers approve making animal cruelty a felony

PIERRE (AP) — The South Dakota Legislature has approved a measure that would make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota, the only state without such a penalty for cases involving severe animal abuse.

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The House voted 54-15 to pass the measure, which was approved earlier by the Senate. It will become law if signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Similar bills failed in past years amid fears they could interfere with the livestock industry. But this year's bill was written in an effort that included members of an animal welfare group and a wide array of agricultural associations.

The bill makes intentional cruelty to animals a Class 6 felony, carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. It says accepted livestock handling practices are not mistreatment or cruelty.