Lead woman named top animal defender for 2015

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A Lead woman is nationally recognized as a top dog in the fight for animal justice.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund named Shari Kosel one of its top ten animal defenders for 2015.

Shari Kosel says, "We looked for her for 30 days and finally found her in one of those ski sheds up on the hill. Maysie, my neighbor's dog was tortured and murdered outside of Lead on Deer Mountain."

After seeing the devastating scene Kosel learned that Maysie would never get justice.

At that time, South Dakota was one of seven states that did not have felony animal cruelty laws in place.

Kosel says, "She had been placed in there and it was padlocked from the outside so we know it wasn't accidental."

Maysie's story lit the fire for this activist to promote change. Kosel founded South Dakotans Fighting Against Animal Cruelty Together or SD FACT to push for a measure to make animal cruelty a felony.

In 2013 Kosel's bill failed in the Senate Ag Committee but second time was just the charm.

Kosel says, "When I initially started it was for companion animals but when the bill finally came forward to the legislature it included all animals. - We were very proud that this was a South Dakota grassroots effort and that we didn't need any outside agency to get this bill passed."

SB 46 passed in 2014 at that point making South Dakota the last state in the country to make animal cruelty a felony crime.

Kosel says, "There's Buddy in Mitchell whose ears were cut off with scissors and Harley that was kicked like a football. All those animals now we can protect and hopefully prosecute to the fullest extent."

But the political push for pets isn't over, the top animal defender says she's working on a spay and neuter mandate as well as a measure to further punish those who intentionally hurt a man's best friend.

Kosel says, "I'd like to see in South Dakota an animal abuse registry where if someone has been convicted of a crime against an animal, that we have a registry that the humane society, OPP or other small shelters can look at and know not adopt to."