The Black Hills woman who led the fight to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota has won some national recognition. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has named Shari Crouch Kosel one of America's Top Ten Animal Defenders:

Shari Crouch Kosel and friend (photo from ALDF)

Shari Crouch Kosel and friend (photo from ALDF)

Shari Crouch Kosel is the co-founder and chair of South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT). In 2008, Shari’s neighbor’s dog was tortured and murdered, which inspired Shari to begin a crusade for a felony penalty for animal cruelty at the state level. Years of letter writing, media outreach, and contacting legislators and law enforcement led to connections with advocates Sara Parker, Heidi Hunter, and Darci Adams. Together, they formed SDFACT, a small, grassroots nonprofit, whose sole mission was to pass felony-level penalties for animal cruelty.

In 2013, SDFACT worked with the Senate Agriculture Committee, the state veterinarian, and other agricultural entities. Months of meetings and passionate discussions in 2014 led to an agreement: a felony bill was born. Ultimately, it gained wide support from all entities in the state. In large part thanks to Shari’s dedication and hard work, in 2014 South Dakota became the 50th and final state to make malicious animal cruelty a felony [link added; Animal Legal Defense Fund, profile of Shari Kosel, downloaded 2015.02.25].

Kosel is not out there advocating for voting rights for dogs. Neither are the other members of ALDF's Top Ten Animal Defenders. Far from fringe activists, the majority of the honorees are law enforcement officials, good public officials out there arresting and prosecuting animal abusers whose cruelty toward weaker four-leggeds demonstrates dangerous anti-social inclinations.

Congratulations, Shari! Keep up the good work!