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South Dakota Ag Groups Fight Animal Rights Legislation

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South Dakota fights animal rights activist legislation.

My home state of South Dakota hasn’t been a particular hot spot for animal rights activist activity. However, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which ranks South Dakota “dead last” for animal cruelty laws, is beginning to have a larger presence here.

South Dakota and North Dakota are the only states without felony-level penalties for animal cruelty. This puts a big, red bull’s eye on the backs of my state’s livestock producers. In this year’s legislative session, one bill already has surfaced that aims to make changes to the state’s animal welfare laws.

Senate Bill 171, co-sponsored by Sens. Stan Adelstein, (R-Rapid City); Dan Lederman, (R-Dakota Dunes); and Reps. Paula Hawks, (D-Hartford); and Anne Hajek, (R-Sioux Falls), states: “No person may maliciously and intentionally cause the mistreatment, torture, or cruelty of any dog, cat, or horse resulting in serious injury, serious illness, or the death of the dog, cat, or horse. A violation of this section is a Class 6 felony. No person may own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for five years after the date of the sentencing.” While not directly impacting livestock production, it could be said that this bill, if passed, will set a precedent for future rulings affecting animal owners in South Dakota.

Many are arguing that meaningful change in regard to animal welfare should be made by South Dakota residents, not outside parties like HSUS. That’s why more than 70 agricultural groups in South Dakota have teamed up to create an animal well-being leadership group.

This group is being led by the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Service, along with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and Ag United For South Dakota. This group will focus on educating the general public and leading the discussion on animal welfare topics. SDSU Extension beef specialist Jim Krantz is tirelessly working to bring this group together, and his efforts have started getting attention around the state. You can read more about this group here.

South Dakota is taking steps to protect the interests of farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen and pet-owners in the state. In 2012, the state passed legislation that, “opposes any attempt for any ballot initiative or acts by the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and other animal rights groups that would undermine the livelihood of agricultural producers.” This bill had bipartisan support and set the standard for future bills that might interfere with the state’s leading economic drivers.

Has your agricultural group or state developed a similar strategy toward warding off unnecessary legislation and taking charge of the animal welfare conversation? Are there any bills related to animal welfare that have been introduced in your state in 2013? If so, share this information and the local response in the comments section below.

Discuss this Blog Entry 16

Chris (not verified)
on Feb 11, 2013

Why don't you focus on the merits of making torturing dogs a felony rather than the fact that one out-of-state organization supports making that change? If I could find evidence of one out of state organization that supports keeping South Dakota's law the same, would that cause you to delete this post? If I can find two outside groups that want to keep South Dakota's law the same then would you change your mind entirely in support of making it a felony to torture dogs? Ridiculous.

caheidelberger (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2013

Sad to see this disinformation here. HSUS did not write SB 171. Regular South Dakotans did. SB 171 includes an explicit exemption of agricultural activities from its penalties. Whatever beef you may have with HSUS, this bill is not part of that fight. This bill makes a common-sense effort to punish sociopaths who commit the sort of malicious violence against dogs, cats, and horses that can be a gateway to violence against fellow human beings.

on Feb 12, 2013

Just to clarify, I didn't say that HSUS wrote the bill, but it certainly endorses 171. My concern isn't that we shouldn't punish those who abuse animals -- people who mistreat animals are still persecuted by SD law, just not with a felony. My concern is that this is a step toward more regulations. And, what defines abuse? And, who defines it? As this is written, how does the bill infringe upon the rights of animal owners? These are questions we must ask ourselves before quickly passing any legislation that might have unintended consequences.

on Feb 12, 2013

This is the slippery slope, regardless of who wrote the bill for SD. HSUS will manipulate even the smallest foothold to entrench themselves into their ultimate fight against animal agriculture, and all that goes with it.

I am 100% in support of animal rights. I believe that all domesticated "pet" animals should be protected and cared for. I also believe that 99% of all cattlemen make great strides to care for the animals in their care right up until the time they are moved to processing.

I would definitely support law defining animal torture, but the problem is that many of these bills can be quite ambigious, and that ambiguity leads to loose interpretation and manipulation. I only caution due diligence and care in the initial crafting and wording of any legislation so that we don't get a rush to law without firmly defined parameters and consequences. More importantly, we don't need another "we need to pass bill so that we can learn what's in it" situation as we have with the Health Care Act.

I am no fan of more regulation. Period. I understand the need, and the topic, but we must guard against snap-shot legislation. Do it, yes, but do it right!

Chris (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2013

Do you REALLY support animal RIGHTS? Do you understand what that means and that is is VERY different than animal WELFARE? Animal RIGHTS means the same legal rights as you and me...no different....means animals out of legal property status (if you don't own them, who does???? They wards of the state, can HSUS come in and claim they know better---hint, that is the general idea behind how these groups want things to operate)...means your cow, or dog, or cat, or chicken can legally get one of their "animal guardians (hey, guess who that will be??) to sue you because they don't think you are taking good enough, humane enough care of them. Guess whose really suing you....the HUMANS with the agenda behind the "we just care about the animals facade." If you TRULY believe in animal RIGHTS, then fine, that is your perogative, but animal RIGHTS is NOT the same as animal WELFARE and we need to stop playing into their game by using their words and definitions.

on Feb 12, 2013

Chris,

Thank you for the clarification and I will give it to you on the grounds of semantics. By your definiton, I am for animal welfare verses sharing the same rights as you and me (AKA Cass Sunstein mind-set). No, I am a cattle producer (and have raised hogs, chickens, and turkeys, as well) and definitely know the difference:)

That said, outright definance to any legal challenge or proposed legislation to so called animal cruelty laws may be like knocking our collective heads against a brick wall. My only point is that as bills are introduced, like in SD, that we do our best to ensure that wording is not ambigious enough to cast its net to include animal agriculture. Again, I am a small government, less-to-least regulation guy...I think we are on the same page on this one but thank you for pointing out my poor choice of words in regards to "rights" verses "welfare."

Chris (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2013

I figured as much Blaine, but I have learned not to assume anything in this fight. Agree with you 100%. Their tactic is to throw the net as wide as possible and make the language as ambiguous and confusing as possible so that they can punish people, and then if challenged, they can interpret it any way they need to to win their case. These laws are NOT meant for animal welfare, they are meant to punish animal owners. Our animals are being used against us, yet they have the gall to say we are the ones using the animals for gain. Their constant efforts to fundraise and make money off the back of animals needs to be brought out and brought out often. I am completely flabbergasted at the ignorance and complacency of our lawmakers these days. They don't seem to care that the laws are vague, that they are meant to catch EVERYONE and not just those these groups are telling them. It is like they can't read, and you would certainly never know that any of them have even had 8th grade civics class with the way they regard the constitutional rights of their constituents. Our last legislative session here scared me so bad, I entered law school at 46years old. Our enemy is highly organized, well-funded, sophisticated, and is without human compassion, as much as they want to take that moral high ground from us. To see them work up close, and to see their ends justifies the means mentality and tactics is truly frightening. I can only hope that as their tactics become more apparent (and they will the bolder they get), that more people will see it for what it is and like me, get a fire in their belly to stand up and fight...and I mean fight hard the way they are.

on Feb 12, 2013

Good luck with law school, Chris (or have you completed it already?). Either way, good to know there are people like you on the side of cattlemen everywhere. Thank you!

The Other Chris (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2013

Chris - are you familiar with the concept of a strawman argument? "Animal rights" isn't about giving animals the same rights as humans. Children have rights but that doesn't include the right to vote or drive a car. Children have a right not to be abused. They have a right for the court to consider their best interest in custody disputes. Corporations have rights too. They have the right to take on debt and enter contractual agreements. Ships are also legally recognized persons with rights under admiralty law dating back hundreds of years. Of course corporations and ships don't have the right to vote, or the right to be defended with lethal force against someone filing corporate dissolution papers. And no animal rights supporter that I am aware of is calling for animals to have the same rights as people. We just want them to have a right not to be violently injured for trivial human purposes like entertainment. Can they be killed for self-defense? Yes, just like another human can. Can people adopt dogs the way they adopt children? Yes. Can animals be used for food or medical research if such use is absolutely necessary to save lives and done in a way that minimizes harm (by giving a proper amount of space, etc.)? That's a harder question to answer but I think reasonable animal rights people can and do go both ways on that issue. To say that the philosophy I just described is inhuman or truly frightening is hyperbolic to say the least, and clearly based on a strawman's notion of what animal rights is all about.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 13, 2013

Chris,
Wow kudos for that research. It's a shame we have to research everything to death in order to protect ourselves from money whores that care nothing of the point in fact but are merely looking to make money off strong opposition one way or the other. Thank you for sharing.

on Feb 12, 2013

Stick to your guns Amanda

Randy (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2013

“Has your agricultural group or state developed a similar strategy toward warding off unnecessary legislation …?”

How exactly did you determine that these strategies ward off “unnecessary” legislation? Is all legislation designed to protect animals “unnecessary”? Or just that legislation that might impact your business?

When I read your column, I’m reminded of Upton Sinclair’s line: "It's hard to get a man to understand something if his paycheck depends upon him not understanding it."

on Feb 12, 2013

Randy...fair point and the Sinclair quote rings true, but on BOTH sides of the arguement. In all reality, much of the HSUS & their anti-animal agriculture lobby are also fighting for their own financial gain and because they are being compensated, and that has to be remembered when accusing one group of having a single minded incentive. Both sides have a vested interest, of course.

As a cattle producer I like to consider myself an advocate for animal welfare every day. Legislation is okay as long as it is done correctly, carefully, and conclusively.

And back to Sinclair and the statement that you quoted, it could also be said that the "understanding" in and of itself is open to debate. Simply because we have a vested interest and do not agree with the way animal welfare legislation is formulated and introduced does not mean we do not understand it. Moreover, because we do not believe that this legislation should simply be inacted without careful review and thoughtful debate does not mean we are ignorant and incapable of understanding this opinion. And it is just that...an opinion. Of course, many people get paychecks for voicing those, too, now don't they?

Dalton (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2013

While it maybe true that SB171 was written by South Dakotans its language is nearly identical to initiated measure 5 that was written by HSUS, and rejected by North Dakota voters. Now North Dakota is looking at real measures proposed by in state ag groups not out of state extremeists.

dawn (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2013

You keep up the fight HUSU, you have a large amount of supporters in SD this is such a backwards state, what an embarrassment, this state doesn't have animal cruelty laws, what a shame, all animals whether domestic or farm should have protection laws...... and the ones opposed are the crazy people in this crazy state I live in. If this law were to be put on the ballot, hands down, residents of SD would support and pass it!!!!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 13, 2013

Dawn don't worry. we understand that just like in our state sometimes people with money rule the law and obviously some big fat cattleman got into the pockets of your senators and much to their embarrassment the bill was voted down. We understand that it is politics and all of our states have those type of currupt people involved. If I were you I would be voting out some senators

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