If only 20 percent of all crimes were ever solved in South Dakota, citizens would demand justice. KELOLAND Investigates has discovered that only 20 percent of missing or stolen cattle in the state are ever recovered.
That has producers calling for more justice from the organization that they pay to help when cattle go missing.
There have been some major changes this year to the way the South Dakota Brand Board is conducting its investigations into cattle theft.
Now the question remains, will more stolen cattle be recovered?
Whether cattle are branded or have ear tags, all producers in the state must pay a fee to register their brands with the South Dakota Brand Board. That money is supposed to help the owners when something happens to their herd.
“How much money, we as the brand people that pay our brands every year, how much money is dedicated to investigations? How much of that is actually used for it?” Scenic Rancher, Liz Fisher, said.
Coy and Liz Fisher reported 42 head of cattle were stolen off their 10,000-acre ranch in western South Dakota last spring. Despite offering up a $10,000 reward, their cattle have never been found.
“We posted it on our report when we received their call. We did notify the brand inspectors. Since it’s an ongoing investigation I cannot comment other than to say it’s not in our jurisdiction,” Brand Board Director Debbie Trapp said.
Trapp says because the Fisher’s ranch is located on tribal land, it’s up to the feds to crack their case, not the Brand Board.
“I think the Brand Board needs to take a serious look at their organization and their practices because they’re not doing it right, something needs to change there,” Liz Fisher said.
Two full-time Brand Board enforcement officers, or investigators, worked under the DCI, but were funded by the Brand Board since 2011. This year, the Brand Board brought forth emergency legislation in order to put its investigators back under the Brand Board and give them law enforcement powers.
“Previously under the DCI they were investigating the crimes and we believe there was a void as far as making sure there was compliance with enforcement; so allowing us to have certified law enforcement officers as our employees we’ll be able to focus on that more. And the DCI will still be a resource if we need them for backup,” Trapp said.
The Brand Board’s Chief Inspector recently received law enforcement certification and the board could hire up to two more investigators to help crack these cases and conduct their own road checks on trailers carrying cattle.
Ranchers say the lack of action has been an issue for decades. Coming up in our investigation Monday at 10, we look into what did and didn’t happen in the Fisher’s case and talk to a rancher who says he gave up on the Brand Board years ago and took matters into his own hands.
Drone and branding/sorting video courtesy of John Powell