Senate Bill 46, the animal cruelty bill that would finally end South Dakota's embarrassing status as the only state in the Union not to issue felony penalties for such sadistic behavior toward our four-legged friends, gets its first hearing Tuesday morning, before Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources.

I don't know if Senate Ag committee member Larry Rhoden has gotten over his hypocritical and ahistorical reach for some reason to posture against this sensible bill. But in case Rhoden and other conservative hypesters haven't gotten the memo, here is the memo—i.e., the text an eager reader tells me the Department of Agriculture is distributing to legislators to tell them to get real (with emphasis in original):

Vote YES on SB 46

(Provide a felony penalty for cruelty to animals, and clarify exemptions)

South Dakota laws have worked well for years in dealing with cases of inhumane treatment of both livestock and non-livestock species. However, South Dakota is the only state without a felony penalty for acts of severe animal cruelty.

Ag and Non-Ag animal interests in South Dakota are united against reprehensible acts of willful, malicious cruelty to animals. SB46 proactively addresses the most severe acts of animal cruelty with a Class 6 felony penalty for such acts. Usual and customary animal ag practices and other time-honored animal uses are protected under a combined and expanded exemptions section.

SB46 is supported by agricultural organizations in South Dakota in order to:

  • Define animal cruelty separately from animal neglect (Sections 1, 3, and 4). Under existing state law, both cruelty and neglect fall under “inhumane treatment”, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. SB46 would continue to provide for Neglect, abandonment, and mistreatment of an animal to be charged as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
  • Create a Class 6 felony penalty for “intentional, willful, and malicious” acts of cruelty toward animals. (Section 4). There is a difference between acts of malicious cruelty and acts of neglect or mistreatment. SB46 provides definitions that clearly differentiate these acts.
  • Resolve a disparity between “dog fighting,” which is currently a felony, and “animal fighting,” which currently has no penalty assigned for instigating the fight. (Sections 8 through 12). These are combined into one section, “animal fighting” (Section 10).

This bill does not change the authority of the Animal Industry Board in their purview of all livestock issues. Provisions of current law will remain, authorizing the Animal Industry Board to administer and enforce provisions of 40-1 for cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and other livestock.

Local humane societies, operating by the authorization of the local County Commissioners, will continue their roles to prevent neglect, abandonment, mistreatment or cruelty to dogs, cats, and other household pets. Local humane society members who are animal control officers must continue to seek judicial authorization. The activities of local humane societies that are currently in place will continue to be limited to species other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and other livestock.

The provisions of the bill do not apply to:

  • animals under the direct and proper care of a licensed veterinarian;
  • persons engaged in standard and accepted agricultural pursuits or animal husbandry practices;
  • any usual and customary practice in the production of food, feed, or fiber, including all aspects of the livestock industry;
  • in the boarding, breeding, competition, exhibition, feeding, raising, service work, showing, training, transportation, and use of animals;
  • in the harvesting of animals for food or byproducts;
  • humane killing of an animal;
  • lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, or other activity authorized by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks;
  • lawful pest, vermin, predator, and animal damage control, including the disposition of wild animals;
  • reasonable action taken by a person for the destruction or control of an animal known to be dangerous, a threat, or injurious to life, limb, or property; and
  • actions taken by personnel or agents of the board, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Game, Fish and Parks, or the United States Department/

Supporters of SB 46 Include:

  • Ag Unity
  • South Dakota Association of Cooperatives
  • South Dakota Association of County Commissions
  • South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association
  • South Dakota Dairy Producers
  • South Dakota Farm Bureau
  • South Dakota Farmer’s Union
  • South Dakota Livestock Auction Market Association
  • South Dakota Pork Producer’s Council
  • South Dakota Poultry Industries Association
  • South Dakota Stockgrower’s Association
  • South Dakota Quarter Horse Association
  • South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association
  • South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together
  • Sioux Falls Humane Society
  • Beadle County Humane Society
  • Dakota Pet Breeder’s Association
  • South Dakota Department of Agriculture
  • South Dakota Animal Industry Board

Hmmm... no out-state activists, no expansion of warrantless searches, no big-Ag backlash... it looks like Rhoden and his fellow retrogressives will have a hard time finding an excuse to vote no on Senate Bill 46.

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Senate Bill 46 would make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota. We are the only state that has not done so. Decent South Dakotans recognize there's no reason to protect sadistic animal abusers from stiffer legal punishment. The ag industry admits Senate Bill 46 is good legislation.

But U.S. Senate candidate Larry Rhoden and GOP blogger Pat Powers are sad to be deprived of last year's false rhetoric against making animal cruelty a felony that they are now resorting to gross misrepresentation of the proposal. State Senator Rhoden told a Belle Fourche crackerbarrel that Senate Bill 46 opens the door for animal activists to invade your property:

Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said the current misdemeanor crime of animal cruelty has mostly been adapted into the current bill — and that concerns him.

He said it appears it would allow animal rights groups to enter private property and seize animals without a warrant.

...Rhoden said he wouldn't support the bill unless the authority would only be for law enforcement agencies [Milo Dailey, "Legislators Concerned about Animal Cruelty Felony Bill," Rapid City Journal, 2014.01.25].

Powers blows that statement up into an outright lie, claiming that legislators are "concerned about warrantless searches being proposed by animal groups."

Stop. Right. There.

Let's be clear. Senate Bill 46 is not being proposed exclusively by animal groups. It is being proposed by the Animal Industry Board, a state agency headed by state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven.. Senate Bill is supported by the South Dakota Farm Bureau, the South Dakota Stock Growers, the South Dakota Pork Producers, and South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together.

Now let's be even clearer: Senate Bill 46 adds no warrantless searches to state law. Read the bill. SB 46 does not change the standards required for search and seizure. It does not authorize anyone to conduct a search who is not currently authorized to conduct a search.

State law already allows certain warrantless searches and seizures. South Dakota Codified Law 40-1-5 already offers this exception for officers impounding abused animals:

...a warrant or court order is not necessary if the animal is severely injured, severely diseased, or suffering and any delay in impounding the animal would continue to cause the animal extreme suffering or if other exigent circumstances exist.

SDCL 40-2-1 already authorizes counties to authorize animal welfare groups to exercise the legal authority created under our animal cruelty chapter. So yes, right now, under South Dakota law, an animal rights group, if authorized by your county government, can send people onto your property to rescue an animal suffering obvious cruelty. Animal groups aren't asking for that authority; counties already have it.

And Senator Larry Rhoden knows these laws, because he voted for the language in them, including the new language that authorized the warrantless impoundment of suffering animals, when he voted for 2006 House Bill 1181 along with all but three other members of the South Dakota House.

One more flip-flop of campaign-trail convenience for Senator Rhoden; one more lie for Mr. Powers. Let's not allow either the flip-flops or the lies distract us from taking animal cruelty seriously and passing Senate Bill 46.

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If evil greenies from elsewhere really were driving South Dakota to make animal cruelty a felony, they'd have a heyday with this headline. In a briefing on Senate Bill 46 with state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven, State Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) expressed skepticism about the bill by offering the example of a neighbor who summarily executed his sheep-killing dog with fencing pliers:

RHODEN: ...Now we create a felony — I’ll give you an extreme example on the other side. You know, there’s some characters in my country. A few years back a neighbor came to another neighbor, who was fencing in the ditch with his dog alongside, and he informed him that he lost some sheep the night before and he thought it was his dog that had done it. He said, well, I don’t think it was my dog. And he said, yeah, I really think it was. The rancher walked over and grabbed his dog — called his dog over, and opened his mouth, and there was wool in his teeth. He said, ‘I’ll be damned, you’re right,’ he took his fencing pliers, and killed him — killed the dog.

REP. ANNE HAJEK: I think that is already addressed, in terms of if the animal is going after livestock.

RHODEN: He wasn’t. But, you read the statute, intentionally, willfully and maliciously inflicted death on the animal.

HAJEK: I don’t feel really good about what he did. Maybe you do, but I don’t.

RHODEN: It was humane. But that’s my point. The dog was killed instantly. But who interprets that?

STATE VETERINARIAN DUSTIN OEDEKOVEN (a proponent of the animal cruelty law): Humane killing is defined [transcript by David Montgomery, "Rhoden, the Dog, and the Fencing Pliers," Political Smokeout, 2014.01.18].

Have all the fun you like with the headline. But let's also remind Senator and candidate Rhoden to read the actual bill. Senate Bill 46 exempts his pliers-wielding neighbor with this exact language:

In addition, the following are exempt from the provisions of this chapter and chapter 40-2:

  1. Any usual and customary practice;
    1. In the production of food, feed, or fiber, including all aspects of the livestock industry;
    2. In the boarding, breeding, competition, exhibition, feeding, raising, service work, showing, training, transportation, and use of animals; or
    3. In the harvesting of animals for food or byproducts;
  2. Any humane killing of an animal;
  3. Any lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, or other activity authorized by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks;
  4. Any lawful pest, vermin, predator, and animal damage control, including the disposition of wild animals;
  5. Any reasonable action taken by a person for the destruction or control of an animal known to be dangerous, a threat, or injurious to life, limb, or property; and
  6. Any actions taken by personnel or agents of the board, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Game, Fish and Parks, or the United States Department of Agriculture in the performance of duties as prescribed by law.

Rhoden's neighbor was destroying an animal known to be dangerous to property. Senate Bill 46 exempts his action from prosecution.

Senator Jim Bradford (D-27/Pine Ridge) chimes in with what appears to be a concern that by making animal cruelty a felony, Senate Bill 46 might prevent ranchers who unnecessarily beat their dogs or other creatures from running for office. I would suggest that, with or without Senate Bill 46, Bradford, Rhoden, and others might have to accept not beating their animals—and not making approving speeches about neighbors killing dogs with pliers—as a small price of running for office.

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In the Hidebound Worldview Department, Queen of Crotchety Commentary Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City) now dismisses the ag-industrial lobby, as well as the state veterinarian and a bunch of other South Dakotans, as dastards and dupes. Rep. Olson is vowing to fight Senate Bill 46, the new and improved bill to make animal cruelty a felony, just like it is everywhere else in America:

"It’s always been against the law," Olson said. "We don’t do any of those things that those evil PETA people think we do. But I don’t like the idea that it’s going to be a felony. We’re caving in to a bunch of greenies from out of state who have no business messing with our agriculture business" [David Montgomery, "Despite Push from Ag, Rural Lawmakers Doubt Animal Cruelty Bill," Political Smokeout, 2014.01.17].

There's just no talking to some people... but let's talk anyway. For the umpteenth time, Betty:

  1. PETA is not evil. Occasionally wrong, occasionally silly, sure, but aren't we all?
  2. PETA is not behind this bill; real South Dakotans just like you are.
  3. Greenies from out of state aren't behind this bill.
  4. Senate Bill 46 is not messing with our agriculture business. Just like last year, this bill specifically exempts standard agricultural activities.

Rep. Olson won't drop her febrile personal attacks to listen to an evil greenie like me. Maybe she'll listen to her colleagues in agriculture:

"They need some additional information and some education on the background and the work that went in to do this, and the reasoning for why some of the sections are written as they are," said Mike Held, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Farm Bureau, of skeptical lawmakers. "We will do that" [Montgomery, 2014.01.17].

Rep. Olson will likely brand Held a coward for caving to animal activists from elsewhere. Maybe Held can explain his way past Olson's paranoid fantasy and get her to see that Senate Bill 46 is just South Dakotans working together to pass decent legislation.

4 comments

Senate Bill 46, a bill to end South Dakota's status as the only state in the Union not to punish cruelty to animals as a felony, is in the hopper!

When South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together brought forward a bill last year to make cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses a felony, legislators and industrial agriculture lobbyists blasted it as unnecessary and dangerous legislation. The conservative blogosphere called the bill a "rabid dog" that deserved to be put down.

But when the ag lobby and state officials help draft an animal cruelty bill that's even tougher than last year's bill, expanding the felony punishment to cruelty for all vetebrates and banning animal fighting to boot, SDFACT's idea is suddenly long overdue legislation. So sayeth the South Dakota Pork Producers Council:

The South Dakota Pork Producers Council is one of the groups backing proposed legislation calling for making animal cruelty a felony. Incoming President Lester Moeller says South Dakota needs to get up to speed on the issue. He says producers care about their animals and don’t support abuse in any way [Tom Riter, "South Dakota Pork Group Supporting Proposed Animal Cruelty Bill," WNAX, 2014.01.10].

Animal cruelty legislation is a bad idea when it comes from regular citizens. Animal cruelty legislation is a great idea when it comes from big industry. Carry on.

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Remember last year's animal cruelty bill, the proposal to make malicious mistreatment of companion animals a felony? It's coming back, bigger, better, and with support from all corners of the issue.

State veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven announced yesterday that the animal welfare activists who brought us last year's bill have worked with state officials and agri-business lobbyists to draft a new bill that (according to an early draft released by South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together)...

  1. Makes malicious mistreatment of any non-human vertebrate a Class 6 felony (last year's bill covered only dogs, cats, and horses);
  2. Exempts normal practices in agriculture, hunting, fishing, and other legal business and animal-control activities from these provisions (last year's bill did the same thing);
  3. Expands the ban on dog fighting to protect all animals from such exploitation (last year's bill didn't mention such barbarism.

The formal draft isn't in the hopper yet, but if passed as drafted, this bill would end South Dakota's embarrassing status as the only state not to treat animal torturers as felons.

Last year's animal cruelty bill raised all sorts of counterfactual corporate protest, with agribusiness opponents personally attacking SDFACT members Shari Kosel, Sara Parker, and others as fronts for the Humane Society of the United States bent on destroying South Dakota agriculture. When Dr. Oedekoven arranged the August meeting among SDFACT, the South Dakota Animal Control Association, state’s attorneys, sheriffs, veterinarians, livestock groups and pet breeders to discuss animal cruelty, the GOP spin machine said HSUS was again pushing its agenda, cast aspersions on Kosel and company, and urged everyone else at the table not to trust SDFACT.

But SDFACT persevered. Kosel and Parker explained again that SDFACT members are real South Dakotans with real concerns based on real experiences with animal cruelty. Kosel and Parker explained that they have no anti-agriculture agenda ("I'm not going to tell a farmer how to do his job," Kosel said in an interview with me yesterday).

Given the chance to talk face to face with the people they maligned last winter, the agri-business lobby realized they were wrong. Instead of peddling their manufactured hysteria, they are acknowledging that they have common cause with their fellow South Dakotans in protecting animals from vicious abuse. They are backing a stronger bill than what Kosel put forward last year because Kosel was right.

As South Dakota Farm Bureau lobbyist Mike Held said yesterday, "Battling that same argument every year in the legislative session gets old after a while." Indeed, corporate propaganda does get old. I am heartened to see the ag lobby will drop this particular false line of attack on fellow South Dakotans and support doing what's right for our four-legged friends.

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SDFACT is the South Dakota group working to end South Dakota's embarrassing status as the last state in the Union not to treat cruelty to animals as felony. (North Dakota left our cheese standing alone last week.) SDFACT is all SD, grassroots South Dakotans trying to do right by our critter pals.

When Tri-State Neighbor's Barry Amundson mistakenly conflated SDFACT's South Dakota efforts with the oft-maligned Humane Society of the United States, SDFACT's Shari Kosel corrected him, and Amundson quickly struck the false line from his article. That's decent journalism.

But Big-Ag lobbyist WNAX runs without compunction the preferred industry narrative that animal cruelty laws are the doings of bogeyman outsiders, not your conscientious South Dakota neighbors. I quote in full to make clear WNAX's nefarious misrepresentation of the discussion taking place in South Dakota about animal cruelty:

South Dakota is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a felony charge for animal cruelty. That has prompted the Humane Society of the United States to push for more restrictions.

South Dakota Legislators however didn’t pass any penalty this session.

Senate Ag Committee Chair Shantel Krebs of Renner says she’s working with the State Vet r [sic] in reviewing state law on that issue and will meet next month to begin that process.

Krebs says South Dakota needs to stay ahead of the curve to avoid attacks from activist groups who may launch a ballot initiative.

She says some type of compromise can be reached on animal cruelty penalties that avoid making it a felony. She says South Dakota shouldn’t have to follow what other states are doing ["South Dakota Officials Reviewing Animal Cruelty Laws," WNAX, 2013.04.26].

For the umpteenth time:

  • Shari Kosel is a South Dakotan.
  • SDFACT is made up of South Dakotans.
  • The discussion happening with lawmakers and state officials is happening because Shari Kosel and other South Dakotans pushed for it.
  • Shari Kosel and SDFACT are not "attacking" South Dakota; they are "attacking" the sociopathic violence that drives certain individuals to torture and slaughter pets.
  • The Humane Society of the United States is not involved in SDFACT's effort to make animal cruelty a penalty.

WNAX may be Big Ag's Big Friend, but on this issue, WNAX is not a friend of honest journalism.

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South Dakota's ag-industrial lobby freaked out over Senate Bill 171, a measure to make cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses a felony. Lobbyists and legislators quickly snuffed out that bill on baseless fears that out-state animal activists would use this grassroots bill to put farmers and ranchers out of business.

All that Bakken oil must keep our North Dakota neighbors from suffering such ag-paranoia. The North Dakota Legislature just approved an animal cruelty law that's broader than what South Dakota legislators pretended went too far. North Dakota's Senate Bill 2211 makes a felony of cruelty to any animal, not just the dogs, cats, and horses. It has clear and sensible exemptions for euthanasia, rodeo, normal farm and ranch practices, and other such critter situations. But it says that if you mutilate or torture any animal, you can go to jail for five years and pay $5,000 for your sociopathic behavior. South Dakota's failed SB 171 would have made critter cruelty a Class 6 felony, worth two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

The North Dakota animal cruelty bill's chief sponsor was a Republican (as was the case with the failed South Dakota bill). It also won the favor of North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

By extending the cruelty bill to apply to all animals, North Dakota's Legislature essentially responded to voters who rejected a ballot initiative last November that would only have dealt with dogs, cats, and horses. The Humane Society says the North Dakota ag lobby watered SB 2211 down, but it's still better than nothing... which is what South Dakota has. When Governor Jack Dalrymple signs this bill, he'll leave South Dakota as the only state that doesn't consider cruelty to animals a felony.

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