A good animal cruelty law

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, S.D.: Efforts at increasing the punishment for mistreating animals have failed in the Legislature over the years. While every other state in the nation has made animal cruelty a felony, in South Dakota, intentional cruelty to animals remains a misdemeanor.

That may change this year, as Senate Bill 46, which would make cruelty to animals a felony, passed the Senate last week on a unanimous vote.

That’s a significant change from last year when a similar bill was defeated in committee because of fears that it could affect the livestock industry. SB 46 was written with cooperation of livestock producers and animal welfare groups.

The bill would make it a felony to commit malicious or intentional acts of abuse that cause prolonged pain, serious physical injury or death of an animal.

Animals that are under the care of veterinarians or raised by livestock producers engaged in “standard and accepted” practices are not considered mistreated. The bill also exempts hunting, fishing, pest control or “any reasonable action” taken against a dangerous or threatening animal.

The neglect, abandonment or mistreatment of an animal would remain a misdemeanor offence.

The bill also expands the crime of dog fighting to include prohibiting the fighting of all animals, and it would make it a misdemeanor to be a spectator at an animal fight.

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