Senator Dan Lederman says that his Senate Bill 75, to prohibit dog breed-specific local ordinances, will prevent "media hysteria" from driving "feel-good, knee-jerk reactions" against adorable pit bulls.

Medical experts disagree:

Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the US mortality rates related to dog bites [J.K. Bini et al., abstract, "Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs," Annals of Surgery, April 2011].

It is not hysteria to note that certain breeds account for higher percentage of dog-bite injuries:

The objective of this study was to characterize the nature of dog bite injuries treated over a 5-year period at a large tertiary pediatric hospital and to identify relevant parameters for public education and injury prevention.

...More than 30 different offending breeds were documented in the medical records. The most common breeds included pit bull terriers (50.9 percent), Rottweilers (8.9 percent), and mixed breeds of the two aforementioned breeds (6 percent).

Pediatric dog bites are preventable injuries, yet they persist as a prevalent public health problem. Evaluation of data from high-volume tertiary pediatric health care institutions identifies predictable patterns of injury with respect to patient age and gender, animal breed, provocation, and seasonality [A.E. Kaye et al., abstract, "Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries: A 5-Year Review of the Experience at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia," Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, August 2009].

Senator Lederman must think the U.S. Army is hysterical. Fort Benning bans pit bulls. U.S. Army Garrison Policy Memorandum 08-10 declares pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, chows, and wolf hybrids "aggressive or potentially aggressive" and bans those breeds unless they are certified military working dogs boarded by their trainers or handlers.

Senator Lederman is fighting to protect pit bulls from justifiable discrimination even as he advocates a marriage discrimination bill that imperils his own family members' civil rights (just imagine a Christian baker refusing to sell a wedding cake to Lederman's kids because the baker thinks the Bible tells him not to serve Jews). Senator Lederman is also fighting to deny local control to elected officials who would act on scientific evidence to reduce injuries to children from an identifiable risk.

Senator Lederman's ignorance and pandering to a manly-man constituency seems very Republican; Senator Lederman's attack on local control does not.

Update 10:50 CST: An eager reader reminds me that Dan Lederman used to love local control. Recall Lederman's defense of last year's school gunslinger bill:

Allow schools the ability to make their own decisions on how to best keep students safe, and give them the tools to do so at their discretion. Most won’t use it, and that’s up to them. If only one District chooses to exercise local control in this manner, then it was still the right decision [Dan Lederman, "Allow Local Control for School Safety - School Sentinel Bill," blog, 2013.02.22].

I'm also reminded that in December 2012, the Aberdeen City Council rejected a pit bull ban, even though their own study of local violent animal incidents showed pit bulls are responsible for a disproportionate number of serious dog attacks.

295 comments

Some South Dakota legislators think it's fine to discriminate against certain kinds of human beings but not to discriminate against certain kinds of dogs.

Senate Bill 75 appears to be a manifestation of pit-bull obsession. Its purpose is to "prohibit local governments from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing regulations on certain dog breeds."

SB 75's prime sponsor, Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/a country club near Sioux City), is co-sponsoring SB 67, a measure that authorizes individuals and businesses to refuse service to homosexuals, racially mixed couples, remarrying divorcees, and anyone else whose marriages and life choices annoy them.

Joining Senator Lederman in treating dogs better than humans are the following misguided Republicans:

  • Sen. Tim Begalka (R-4/Clear Lake)
  • Sen. Bob Ewing (R-31/Spearfish)
  • Sen. Ryan Maher (R-28/Isabel)
  • Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre)
  • Sen. Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic)
  • Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City)
  • Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City)

These folks come from the same political party that gives us an attorney general who thinks it's o.k. to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. in celebrating the death penalty.

Say whatever you want about what wonderful pets pit bulls are. I find that discussion trivial until South Dakota grants all humans justice and equal rights.

40 comments

Shari Kosel marched against a blizzard of Big Ag baloney last winter when she and fellow South Dakotans fighting animal cruelty brought Senate Bill 171 to the 2013 Legislature. This bill would have upped the penalty for the torture and killing of dogs, cats, and horses. Incredibly, Big Ag treated this sensible protection against sociopaths as an assault on industrial agriculture promulgated by out-of-state animal rights extremists. That snow job worked, and SB 171 failed in committee.

Yet Kosel and friends continue their efforts, and they are getting some press. The Tri-State Neighbor notes that state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoeven plans to meet with Kosel to talk about South Dakota's animal cruelty laws and how we might improve them.

Alas, the TSN report gets one fact wrong and incorrectly fans the flames of anti-HSUS paranoia:

Many legislators and others said they thought the group was linked to and financed by the Humane Society of United States (HSUS), which isn’t exactly popular among the state’s agricultural community and politicians.

Kosel said her group was offered money by HSUS but refused it.

She said it is a group of South Dakotans who simply want better protections for companion animals [Barry Amundson, "S.D. Meeting Planned on Possible Animal Cruelty Laws," Tri-State Neighbor, 2013.04.18].

Bzzzzt! Sorry, Neighbor, that's incorrect. Kosel tells me she said no such thing. Kosel says the Humane Society of the United States has not offered her and her group any money. Consistent with her previous public comments, Kosel maintains that she and her fellow animal defenders are 100% South Dakotan, with no connection to national groups. Kosel says she told Amundson that the Animal Legal Defense Fund has offered to do phone surveys to spread the word about animal cruelty, but that such an effort would happen independent of SDFACT.

Maybe someday we'll be able to discuss the substance of SDFACT's animal protection proposals without invoking the bogeymen of the Big Ag lobby. But as long as that rabid industry lobby keeps infecting our legislators with misconceptions to stop good policy, we'll have to keep talking about and refuting those misconceptions.

Update 09:48 MDT: The reference to HSUS offering SDFACT money has been stricken from the Amundson article.

9 comments

...SDSU Extension and Press Help!

Senate Bill 171—the bill upping the penalty for cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses—comes before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee in Pierre tomorrow (assuming today's snow day for legislators doesn't throw the schedule off track). The bill faces an uphill climb, given the fallacious flak from Big Ag and the complicitous press.

Consider these two articles on SB 171, one from WNAX (which, unhelpfully, does not put date stamps on its stories), one from last Wednesday's Mitchell Daily Republic.

Covering a powwow of Big Ag lobbyists in Pierre January 28, WNAX quotes Ag United board member Paul Brandt from Clear Lake, who says that the folks backing SB 171 are under the influence of the Humane Society of the United States and other out-of-state groups trying to end animal agriculture. MDR's Tom Lawrence gets a similar line from SDSU Extension's Jim Krantz, who says we should have a felony penalty for animal cruelty (exactly what SB 171 proposes) but that (Lawrence's words) "such changes should come from South Dakotans, not from the HSUS."

Talk about red herrings. The bill's most prominent supporter, Shari Kosel from Lead, and other South Dakota supporters have stated publicly that they are not part of the HSUS, that they are South Dakotans just like the rest of us doing grassroots activism, not the bidding of some nefarious out-of-state organization determined to make us all eat grass. The Big Ag lobby is so obsessed with trumpeting its rage against the HSUS that it ignores the facts about its South Dakotan proponents as well as the merits of SB 171, which focuses on dogs, cats, and horses and explicitly exempts normal agricultural practices from its penalties. Extension agent Krantz is perpetuating that willful ignorance on the state's dime.

And worst of all, WNAX and MDR don't challenge that lie. WNAX just talks to Ag United and offers no response from Kosel or supporters of SB 171. Lawrence at least seeks an opposing opinion... but strangely, instead of going to Kosel and the South Dakota backers of SB 171, he goes to the Humane Society's South Dakota director Darci Adams for the opposing view. Adams avers that she had nothing to do with creating SB 171 but that she does, as one would expect, support the bill. Lawrence at least provides that balance, but his article bolsters the myth that Krantz and the Big Ag lobby needs to sell, that SB 171 is a battle between honest South Dakota farmers and the evil HSUS.

Senate Ag, when you get in from the snow, don't be fooled. Senate Bill 171 is not about outsiders foisting some long-reaching agenda to destroy pious Dodge-loving farmers. Senate Bill 171 is about applying a proper penalty to dangerous sociopaths doing violence to dogs, cats, and horses. Focus on the issues, and pass SB 171.

Update 2013.02.12 07:13 MST: Mitchell's own Amandke Radke, an otherwise perfectly lovely woman, stirs the Big Ag hysteria with this deceptive essay in Beef Magazine.

17 comments

South Dakotans seeking tougher penalties for wanton cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses will get a hearing before the Legislature. Senators Stand Adelstein and Dan Lederman and Reps. Anne Hajek and Paula Hawks have signed on as sponsors to Senate Bill 171, which would raise malicious and intentional cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses to a felony offense. That change would bring South Dakota's laws on treatment of dogs, cats, and horses up to standards already in place in most other states.

SB 171 hit the hopper the same day that the House almost unanimously passed a pre-emptive propaganda resolution promulgated by the ag-industrial complex. House Concurrent Resolution 1001 was just the latest in a history of ploys by Ag United and other big-business lobbyists to misrepresent efforts to punish sociopaths who skin cats alive as an assault on farming, ranching, and the South Dakota Way of Life. HCR 1001 and certain conservative confabulists claim that "extreme animal rights organizations" like the Humane Society of the United States and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are out to kill agriculture with animal protection laws like SB 171.

However, Shari Kosel of Lead, the leading advocate for SB 171, has pointed out that she and her fellow activists have drafted the current bill in response to the concerns of the ag community. They have carefully chosen their language to ensure that it does not impact agriculture. She has also averred on this blog that her group is 100% grassroots South Dakotans.

In the face of the logic and compromise of their fellow South Dakotans, opponents will keep resorting to silly ideological and personal arguments, as exemplified by conservative mouthpiece Pat Powers. The GOP blogger lost his ability to write some years ago; working in the Secretary of State's office, Powers apparently caught Jason Gant's inability to read. He takes to the Webwaves to impute some nefarious wishy-washiness to SB 171's single Democratic sponsor, Rep. Hawks, for also sponsoring and voting for HCR 1001. As one of my eager readers notes, Powers fails to read the full sponsor lines of both measures and notice that his Republican friend and employer, Senator Lederman, is also a cosponsor of both measures.

More importantly, Powers fails to read both measures and realize one could express support for both South Dakota agriculture and for SB 171's tougher punishment for dangerous individuals who perpetrate cruelty against dogs, cats, and horses. He just cuts and pastes bill titles next to a Democrat's name and launches his insults.

Legislators, don't let the the illogical rages of Pat Powers and Steve Dick distract you from debating the merits of the bill text before you. In Senate Bill 171, Shari Kosel and her fellow South Dakotans offer you a reasonable compromise that can help stop violent offenders from turning their vicious impulses from animals to people. Debate the bill, not the personal attacks and fantasies coming from the Right.

6 comments

My Lead neighbor Shari Kosel mentioned last September that she would try to get some tougher cruelty protections for pets on the books this legislative session. Her group, South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together, is following up with a complete bill ready for the Legislature:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for felony penalties for aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA: Section 1. That Chapter 40-1 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

40-1-27.1 Aggravated cruelty as felony. 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 death of the dog, cat, or horse. A violation of this section is a class 6 felony. “Serious injury” means any injury that creates a substantial risk of death, leaves a dog, cat, or horse significantly disfigured, causes broken bones, or causes prolonged impairment of health. “Serious illness” means any illness or starvation that creates a substantial risk of death, leaves a dog, cat, or horse significantly disfigured, or causes prolonged impairment of health. “Torture” includes but is not limited to burning, poisoning, crushing, suffocating, impaling, drowning, blinding, skinning, fatal beating, fatal dragging, fatal exsanguination, disemboweling or dismemberment of a dog, cat or horse.

This section may not be construed to prohibit:

  1. Hunting, trapping, fishing, or any other activity regulated under Title 41;
  2. The marking of an animal for identification, and any other activity that is a usual and customary practice in production agriculture;
  3. Examination, testing, individual treatment, operation, or euthanasia performed by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian;
  4. Lawful medical or scientific research conducted at a public or private facility or laboratory by or under the direction of a qualified researcher; and
  5. Any lawful activity undertaken to protect a person’s life or property from a serious threat caused by a dog, cat, or horse.

Any person who violates this section may also, at the discretion of the court, be ordered to undergo psychological or psychiatric evaluation and obtain psychological counseling, including counseling in responsible pet ownership or animal cruelty prevention, for which the person shall bear any costs incurred; and not to own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for up to five years after the date of the sentencing.

This animal cruelty bill is better written than Rev. Rep. Scott Craig's make-your-school-an-unaccountable-armed-camp bill. It clearly focuses on the animals of concern—dogs, cats, and horses. You won't go to jail for branding your cattle, putting nightcrawlers on your hook, or cleaning your walleye.

The bill addresses both the inherent immorality of animal cruelty as well as the human side effects. Animal torture is linked to aggression and violence against humans... so arguably, by tightening penalties for animal cruelty and authorizing judges to send violators in for counseling, this bill might do more to keep children safe than the guns-in-school bill.

But, while Kosel reports 13 legislators have said they will co-sponsor this bill, no one has stepped up as prime sponsor.

Come on, folks: this bill does clear good and no harm. It recognizes a dangerous crime and does more to protect us from violent offenders. Legislators, you have until Monday, January 28, to file individual bills. One of you should pick up this bill and give it a chance to stand up to scrutiny in committee.

84 comments

My Lead neighbor Shari Kosel is pushing for South Dakota to toughen its animal cruelty laws. According to a post on her new blog, South and North Dakota are the only two states in the Union that do not make cruelty to companion animals a felony. The only felony I see codified in our animal cruelty chapter is the Class 6 felony we apply to dog fighting. (It's a misdemeanor just to be present at a dog fight.)

Kosel has sent out a questionnaire to legislators and candidates to gauge their interest in making animal cruelty a felony. She's likely hoping for a better response from legislators than previous efforts have garnered. Kosel promoted a tougher animal cruelty laws during the 2010 Legislative session, but that bill targeting commercial dog breeding operations (2010 HB 1146) incurred a quick response from the pet industry and farm interests. The House Ag and Natural Resources committee quickly and unanimously killed the bill.

There's no excuse for torturing a helpless animal. But I'm curious: does animal cruelty warrant a felony punishment?

24 comments

The Madison City Commission approves a tax kickback as a special favor to one business, and what does everyone come to the commission meeting to complain about? Pit bull regulations.

Several pit bull owners spoke in defense of their pets, saying that dog problems in Madison went beyond the pit bull breed. They spoke in favor or registering all dogs and holding the canines that misbehave responsible for bad behavior. They also supported penalties for irresponsible dog owners [Chuck Clement, "City, Residents Hold Discussion on Dog Behavior," Madison Daily Leader, 2011.05.16].

Great. Fine. Whatever. Meanwhile Madison rips off neighboring communities and transfers a million dollars from the public sector to one private corporate pocket.

Grrr. Now I feel like biting someone.

27 comments

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