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Poisoning Dogs Is Class 1 Misdemeanor

April 16, 2010, 4:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

TEA, SD - It's sickened nine dogs. Four of them have died.

And if it turns out someone planted the poison and made the dogs sick on purpose, they could be headed to court.

Authorities are still investigating, so we don't know the exact circumstances of this case.

But we did some digging and found multiple animal cruelty and poisoning laws on South Dakota books. We also found some people who say the laws need to change.

In South Dakota, it's illegal to hurt, kill or poison an animal owned by someone else. Under state law it's a class one misdemeanor.

"You know it's tragic to come home and have your pet very ill because of some senseless act that someone did," said Tanya Beckman.

Tanya Beckman is the vice-president of the South Dakota Coalition for Companion Animals. The group has been working for a year now to change state law, so intentionally harming or killing someone else's pet would become a felony.

"If the consequence for that was higher or greater, then they would actually treat it more seriously," said Beckman.

Beckman is thankful no children were hurt. And while she's concerned about what the Tea incidents say about how animals can be treated in South Dakota, she says they could also help in the push for tougher penalties.

"I think it should be treated the same, especially when the risk is posed to children or dogs,” said Beckman.

The laws prohibiting intentional deaths of other's animals do not pertain to registered veterinarians who euthanize sick or injured pets.

Because the neighborhood where the poisoning happened is outside of Tea city limits, Lincoln County laws apply. The county does have an ordinance that says when not on your own property, a dog must be under immediate control of its handler. Not having control of a dog is a class two misdemeanor.

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