PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota became the last state in the nation to make animal cruelty a felony under a bill that received the Legislature’s final approval Tuesday.
The House voted 54-15 to pass the measure, which was approved earlier by the Senate. It will become law if signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Similar bills have failed in past years amid fears they could interfere with the livestock industry, but this year’s measure was written in a cooperative effort led by State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven. Livestock groups, law enforcement officials, veterinarians, local animal control officials and some animal welfare supporters worked on the bill.
Current South Dakota law makes inhumane treatment of animals a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Neglect, abandonment, and mistreatment of an animal would remain a misdemeanor under the bill.
However, the measure would make cruelty to animals a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $4,000. Cruelty is defined as the intentional, willful and malicious infliction of physical abuse that causes prolonged pain, serious injury, or the death of an animal.