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Ben Hartland, Fargo, Published October 05 2012

Letter: ND Legislature refuses to enact tougher animal cruelty penalties

Measure 5 is the logical next step for basic animal welfare.

It protects dogs, cats and horses from the most vile acts of torture.

The measure does this without affecting our state’s traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching.

North Dakota is one of only two states in the union without a felony provision for extreme animal cruelty. South Dakota is the other state. We are second to last in the nation when it comes to this issue.

When the Legislature fails to act, our state’s constitution allows for the people to take charge in the form of a ballot initiative.

If we thought we could rely on the Legislature to come through, we would not have worked so hard to get Measure 5 on the ballot.

For more than six years, the promise of a legislative approach has failed time and again. In 2011, they even failed to vote “yes” on a promise to look at the issue in the 2013 session.

After years of empty and broken promises made by the Legislature and its handful of animal welfare supporters, one must wonder why we should stay the course.

The measure was drafted by my fellow North Dakotans, not hand-delivered to us by some national organization. We invited all of our state’s interested parties to join with us in formulating the measure, including the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, the F-M Humane Society, etc.

Many people and organizations have come together to endorse and support Measure 5, including more than 20 North Dakota animal rescue groups, plus many veterinarians, vet techs, sheriffs (and deputies), business owners, and more than 25,000 North Dakotans who signed the petition.

Why should we believe the Legislature this time? After a politician fails time and again to come through, it is time to stop relying on them and take measures into our own hands.

The fact that a few animal welfare groups have chosen to join with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association in opposing Measure 5 does not change the fact that the measure is the next logical step in changing our laws to reflect the beliefs and values of the majority of North Dakotans.

This is why I encourage everyone to vote “yes” on Measure 5.