Home > 2014 SD Legislative Session, South Dakota > SB 46 will redefine animal cruelty in South Dakota

SB 46 will redefine animal cruelty in South Dakota

March 8, 2014

White Tail DeerOn Monday, March 10, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony and take action on SB 46. SB 46 has this stated purpose:

An Act to revise certain provisions regarding animal welfare and to provide a felony penalty for cruelty to animals.

I consider myself an advocate for the humane treatment of animals and believe truly malicious treatment of animals should be prosecuted very severely. Yet I am having a hard time supporting this bill. As is often the case, bills that are meant to be tough on a certain situation can be far too overreaching and cause a greater potential for unintended consequences. SB 46 may be one of those bills.

Back on Feb 11 the State Veterinarian, Dustin Oedekoven, gave the primary proponent testimony in the State Ag committee. He was speaking on behalf of the SD Animal Industry Board. His testimony is well worth listening to. And I do believe he tried to fix the many problems that existed in previous attempts at such legislation in the past. During testimony he offered an amendment that cleared up the bill a bit. But there are still some issues with the bill. I feel the opponent testimony in that hearing is just as important to listen to. It provided a lot of doubt as to the validity of this bill.

Here are two specific problems I have with this bill:

“Cruelty,” to intentionally, willfully, and maliciously inflict gross physical abuse on an animal that causes prolonged pain, that causes serious physical injury, or that results in the death of the animal;

The definition of ‘cruelty was added, it had previously not existed in SD code. By itself this definition seems good. But you have to look at how extremist animal rights advocates will use this definition. This definition can be used to attack farmers, ranchers, and hunters that activists wish to stop. Current codified law in South Dakota already makes it illegal to commit animal cruelty as generally understood (mistreatment, torture, neglect, abandonment, mutilation, inhumane slaughter, etc..). I don’t see anything wrong with the specific definitions in law that require a broad and open-to-interpretation definition of cruelty to be created. It appears the language in this definition was drafted broadly on purpose for use in the future by extreme animal right activists.

No person may subject an animal to cruelty. A violation of this section is a Class 6 felony. 

Here is where animal cruelty is changed to a Class 6 felony. Many of the proponents of this bill say this is important because “South Dakota is the only state that hasn’t made this a felony”. Well, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it is right. If the punishment was the older and more specific language it may have been OK to make this a felony offence. But to make this a felony offence with the overly broad definition from above is just asking for activists to harass farmers, ranchers, hunters, dog owners, and anyone else that comes near an animal. Felony offenses have dire consequences and can ruin many parts of a South Dakota citizens life. That is done on purpose to prevent felonies from every happening. If the definition of a crime is too broad it can take many rights away from innocent people who are targets of animal rights activists.

It is confounding the State Senate passed a bill that created an overly-broad definition of animal cruelty and increased the punishment to a felony. I wonder if any of those Senators actually read the bill and thought of the unintended consequences.

I do think there are some tweaks that need to be made to the animal cruelty laws in South Dakota. SB 46 has some areas that would be good starting point for legislation to that effect. I just hope the House Judiciary Committee looks at this bill more intently than the Senate. I don’t think there is enough time left in the session to ‘fix’ this bill. For that reason I hope the House Judiciary committee kills the bill. South Dakota will have to wait until 2015 for an animal cruelty bill that ensures those mistreating animals are properly dealt with; without providing an overly-broad definition that activists can use to wreak havoc upon their victims.

  1. March 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

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  2. Reagan Republican
    March 11, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    There are a lot of things we can and should do to improve animal treatment in this state and every state. PETA is insane but so are the groups who only care about the $$$ signs instead of an animals well being.

    • March 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I agree, the groups that put money ahead of animal well being are worse in my opinion than PETA or HSUS. The problem is finding a balance that can punish the truly felonious cases of abuse without giving too much power to special interest activist groups. I think a good compromise I heard at the airport cafe the other day was pretty good: make a first conviction of animal cruelty a Class 1 Misdemeanor, then subsequent convictions would increase to Felony 6. I believe that approach would have been more appropriate.

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  1. March 24, 2014 at 9:27 pm
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