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Val Wagner, Monango, N.D., Published June 30 2012

Understand ND cruelty law options

A loosely formed working group of farmers, ranchers, pet owners, veterinarians and states attorneys began work on revisions to the state’s humane treatment of animals law more than two years ago. North Dakota legislators were not hearing concerns of animal mistreatment from their constituents at that time, though, and that effort did not pass. Did you contact your legislator last session to talk about this issue?

Undaunted, this group, now known as North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care, continued its work to develop a better plan for North Dakota animals.

So, here we are in 2012. North Dakotans have a choice to protect a small circle of animals – dogs, cats, horses – from a limited list of atrocities that don’t regularly occur, through a proposed ballot initiative, or they can join the effort started years earlier to protect all animals from animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment by supporting the North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care and its legislative approach.

Why not do both? The unfortunate answer is, once a ballot initiative passes, it will require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to make changes, at least for the next seven years. History shows that the Legislature has been unwilling to modify a vote of the people after the passage of a ballot initiative.

Therefore, if the ballot initiative passes, protections for other animals will likely be put on the back burner for many years. If the ballot initiative passes, only three types of animals will be protected from 13 specific acts of cruelty (which, incidentally, exclude the most common forms of animal mistreatment in North Dakota – starvation and hoarding).

The proposed bill draft is better. It provides protections for all animals – livestock, companion and zoo animals alike – and punishes North Dakotans who willfully cause animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment, with punishment that reflects the severity of the crime, ranging from infractions to Class C Felonies.

I say, skip the narrowly focused, animal-rights-led ballot initiative and join North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care in advocating for common-sense legislation that protects every North Dakota animal from cruelty, neglect and abandonment.