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Groups Fight for Tougher Animal Cruelty Laws in North Dakota

Groups Fight for Tougher Animal Cruelty Laws in North Dakota

North Dakota is one of the only two states left with no felony cruelty laws in place and has been consistently ranked as one of the worst five states in the nation for animal protection by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

No matter how horrific the cruelty is, abusers only face misdemeanor charges. Now, two groups are fighting to change the laws in the state with competing proposals – one with a ballot initiative and the other with plans that will go before legislators next year.

North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, a coalition of animal shelters, veterinarians, pet rescues, animal control officers, animal welfare groups, and citizens, is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would make it a Class C felony for a first offense to engage in malicious and intentional cruelty to dogs, cats, or horses, which would include “poisoning, crushing, suffocating, impaling, drowning, blinding, skinning, bludgeoning or dragging to death, exsanguinating, disemboweling or dismembering.”

Violators could also have to undergo mandatory psychological or psychiatric evaluations and counseling at the discretion of the court and would be prevented from owning animals for five years.

North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care, which is supported by farm groups, veterinarians, animal shelters and the Dakota Zoo, as well as the state Agriculture Department and Board of Animal Health, is offering an alternative plan it believes is more comprehensive than the ballot initiative.

“As veterinarians, we work to provide care every day for both small and large animals,” said Dr. Del Rae Martin, past president of the North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association. “The North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association feels the draft legislation offers a better solution than the proposed ballot initiative, which is narrowly focused, limited to three species, and fails to address the most common forms of animal mistreatment in our state.”

Their proposal covers both pets and livestock and addresses cruelty, abandonment and neglect and would also provide various penalties, including felony charges, for abuse depending on the severity. Among other provisions, it would also allow veterinarians and law enforcement officials to seize animals if they suspect abuse and allow them to take custody of abandoned animals.

Even with legislation on the table, some animal advocates worry it won’t make a difference.

“The legislature has failed for years to address our weak animal cruelty laws, and last year refused to even study the issue. There are no guarantees that the politicians in Bismarck will pass any bill, so we are going forward with our much-needed ballot measure and giving the people of North Dakota the opportunity to decide,” said Karen Thunshelle, campaign manager for North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty.

The group needs to get 13,452 signatures by August 8 to put their proposal on the ballot in November.

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119 comments

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2:39PM PST on Jan 23, 2013

agree with all comments, well said

10:35AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

I emailed this article to Governor of North Dakota and asked to enforce striker laws against animal cruelty

10:27AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

Laws against animal cruelty in North Dakota have to be changed. These primitive minded animal abuses have to educated that animals like humans feel pain and cannot be abused at the hands of sadistic criminals. First they torture animals and then they kill people. I don't understand that in 21 century people are still so narrow-minded in the US.

5:19AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

The law should be enforced

12:22PM PST on Nov 6, 2012

They should be put in the Wolfs den so they don`t start on kids and the money that is saved on Wolf food can be used to stop animal cruelty !!!

8:43AM PST on Nov 6, 2012

Well said Robert F !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8:23PM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

People of North Dakota -- STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR THE ANIMALS IN YOUR STATE! THEY CANNOT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES - IF YOU DON'T FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO LIVE AND BE PROTECTED, THEN WHO WILL? STAND UP AND FIGHT! TELL YOUR REPS IN GOVT WHAT YOUR VALUES ARE, WHAT YOUR OPINIONS ARE -- STAND UP AND PROTECT YOUR ANIMALS!

10:39AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

Animal cruelty should be made a felony in the entire united states & then maybe other countries will soon adopt the same law. People who abuse & mistreat animals should go to prison for a long time & if & when they get out should be registered like a pedophile & never be allowed to have or be around animals ever again!!!!

5:38AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

To turn a blind eye to the act of cruelty is less than a felony is likened to seeing a live being being punished for living. Man was not put on earth to torture abuse or mistreat the lowest of creatures he was to protect the helpless.

Where did society go wrong/ did we think by ignoring abuse it will go away or do we believe it is acceptable just a an animal being abused by low life fits the description of a felony. No excuses for the coward to take the weakness of any animal looking for love and attention to commit a felony of abuse.Ann

9:22AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Sign and forward...I just did. Together we can make a difference for these animals. Together we can be the voice for the voiceless, the invisible, the forgotten and the vulnerable.

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