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Big Ag Lobby Continues HSUS Smokescreen Against Animal Cruelty Bill…

Last updated on 2014.01.07

...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.


  1. Charlie Johnson 2013.02.11

    All parties in SD need to have a level headed discussion on this issue. At some point you need you need to discuss the merits of the bill-not use the media and strawmen tactics. Ag United and other groups need to treat fellow SD residents with more respect and intellectual debate.

  2. WayneB 2013.02.11

    Do we have evidence of widespread animal torture, cruelty, etc. which warrants a more toothy penalty? Are incidents on the rise?

  3. Chris S. 2013.02.11

    Does a crime have to be widespread before it's properly treated as a felony? If that's the threshold, then murder isn't a felony, as it's actually pretty rare.

    Perpetrators of animal cruelty and abuse often commit other violent crimes, such as domestic abuse. It should be treated as the felony that it is. It shouldn't be merely a misdemeanor if you bludgeon your neighbor's dog in a property dispute (or just because you don't like him), or torture your girlfriend's cat because she dumped you.

  4. Sid 2013.02.11

    Why all the disagreement? If there is no cruelty to animals no one should object to a new law. The ones being cruel and abusing animals are the ones who torture and neglect them.

  5. larry kurtz 2013.02.11

    The horse/donkey meat scandal in Europe eclipses whatever the little ol' Dakotas are doing to provide a humane dispatch for unwanted horses in a climate where the cost of maintaining those animals rivals that of a human family.

    Tribes: you can fix this. Build a equine slaughter house now!

  6. Shari Kosel 2013.02.11

    I am not the leader of SD FACT, just the most vocal on this page.

    To answer Wayne: Yes, there have been many cases of animal cruelty in South Dakota. Check our blog, we have many listed there.

    All the crimes you see listed all received a misdemeanor penalty as if they were speeding. Cutting a dogs ears off with a steak knife and speeding down the highway? Same penalty. Class 1 misdemeanor.

    Why? Because Judges don't have a choice in SD. There are no felony laws for the most malicious of cruelty cases.

    And Chris S., I agree with you. We need these felony penalties in place so when they DO happen, we aren't left scratching our heads wondering why the perp only got a $100 fine and no jail time.

  7. grudznick 2013.02.11

    Dogs, cats and horses.
    Dogs, cats and horses.

    i am still concerned about the guinea pigs and pot bellied pigs and other pig-like companion mammals.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.11

    Wayne, if the no-increasing-trend argument policy argument held here, I would accept it as basis for rejecting the animal cruelty bill as a trade for everyone else's No on the school gunslinger bill as an unnecessary Aff plan in response to a rare event that the status quo sufficiently addresses. (See, I can trade horses... which I hope isn't considered cruel.)

  9. Lori Lockman 2013.02.11

    Thank you! Finally someone has posted the truth. I am an animal advocate and a former member of an animal rescue organization. I live in Sioux Falls. I am not a member of the HSUS. I fully support this bill and hope to see it come to fruition. Its a shame that big ag groups refuse to see this for what it is-laws regulating proper punishment for heinous acts against companion animals. How embarrassing for SD to be one of the last 2 states without felony animal cruelty laws. .

  10. Jana 2013.02.11

    File this one under sad but true.

    I'm afraid if you are not a Republican or member of "right" organizations, you aren't a South Dakotan.

  11. WayneB 2013.02.11

    I'm perfectly happy with that, Cory.

    As an animal lover, I certainly don't want any animals to suffer by the hands of humans. I'm not sure, though, if someone who abuses an animal is just as bad as a person who's committed aggravated assault, killing an on-duty police dog, and stalking.

    I worry about creating one more thing to label as a felony, which severely impacts a person's ability to become a contributing member of society. America is creating a permanent ostracized criminal class. Would it be better to keep it a misdemeanor and attach the ability of judges to mandate psychological therapy if it's warranted?

    So there were 97 instances of animal cruelty in the past 5 years, and only a tiny fraction of them violent.

    I'm not saying I'm against this bill. I'm not sure I'm for it. My gut says cruelty to animals is wrong. I'm not sure it's worthy of felony status - in my opinion, too much is already.

  12. Charlie Johnson 2013.02.11

    I have been a farmer my entire life. Everyday, I care for livestock. It is embarassing that certain ag groups will throw "dirty laundry" on anyone who takes the stand to protect animals of any kind. To me, they remind me of bullies on th playground-they are so insecure about their own positions, they resort to character assassination to prop themselves up. Really, all they need to do is engage in above board policy discussion on the issues.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.11

    Charlie, you're probably not the guy to ask, since you're a farmer outside of the Big Ag lobby, and you recognize that SB 171 poses no threat to agriculture. But do Brandt, Steve Dick, et al. really see HSUS getting some useful political capital out of South Dakota passing this law? Are they that worried about a slippery slope to... what, mandatory veganism?

  14. Jana 2013.02.11

    I don't know Cory...the GOP in SD knows exactly how the slippery slope works.

    Look at the evolution of constitutionally protected abortion rights in South Dakota. Criminalize someone for undergoing a legal operation...propose laws permitting the shooting of Doctors...redefine rape to only count if they are Christian virgins who have been beaten. Legally assume that women are incapable of making a decision with their personal physician.

    Smoke a little pot to help with chemo...have 2.1 ounces...your going to jail pal, that's a felony.

    But hey, torturing and killing pets...we gotta think about that one.

    Sorry Fido and Fluffy...slippery slope stuff here.

    But don't feel bad Fluffy and Fido, you're not alone. The GOP doesn't think that there should be any enforceable laws for thousands of women in our state. Heck, ask Kristi and John. They'll tell you its politics and slippery slope stuff.

    Welcome to South Dakota.

    Besides, we have assumed that it is HSUS behind this bill, in spite of no evidence to support that belief. Not to mention, we have already selected the out of state organizations writing our laws...we don't need anymore help...right ALEC? Grover? Tea Party?

  15. Charlie Johnson 2013.02.11

    They know that SB 171 poses no threat but with the insecurity of what they believe they are willing and wanting to make a "Straw Man" out of anything or anybody. The drafters of SB 171 contacted each board member of Ag United to a sit down meeting to discuss possible compromise legislation. Instead Ag United held a "come to Jesus meeting" in Pierre last week to rally the troops on the "evils" of any kind of animal legislation. Remember Ag United was the organization that came out against backyard poultry in Sioux Falls.

  16. Dana P. 2013.03.05

    sigh. yeah, we don't need an animal cruelty bill in this state.....

    and please, if your animal just died and you didn't know how to dispose of it, you don't wrap it with duct tape. Please. Let's don't give the possible owners (if they are found) a ready excuse....... makes me shake my head.

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