A bill on its way to the Governor's desk would make South Dakota the last state in the country to make animal cruelty a felony.
While the measure isn't perfect, according to the state's largest humane society, animal advocates do say it's a major step in the right direction.
The House voted overwhelmingly to pass the SB 46, which was approved earlier by the Senate. It will become law if it's signed by the governor.
Similar bills have failed in the past amid fears they could interfere with South Dakota's livestock industry. But in 2014, producers, vets and animal rights supporters worked together on the plan.
The bill would bring felony charges against those who willfully and maliciously seek to harm animals. Julia Hoefert and other animal advocates are among those eagerly awaiting such a measure.
"The cruelty issue, the intentional harm, the intentional torture, I'm really, really happy to see that move up to a felony item," Hoefert said.
As business manager of the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, she says the bill is a "win" for South Dakota pets.
However, the measure falls short of classifying all types of behavior considered animal abuse by advocates.
Neglect, abandonment and the mistreatment of an animal would remain a misdemeanor under the bill.
"Obviously we'd like to see that move up to a felony issue as well, but neglect issues, a lot of times that is because of inexperience and lack of education or knowledge and so we can still try to work with those people and try to alleviate those issues," Hoefert said.
The measure would make cruelty to animals a Class 6 felony which is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.
While the bill isn't entirely perfect, according to animal activists, the proposed law is a huge step in the right direction.
Proponents of the bill say the measure makes it clear that legal hunting, accepted livestock-raising practices and rodeos are not considered mistreatment or cruelty.