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Doug Goehring , Published July 26 2013

Letter: Editorial wrong about law, unfair to county authorities

In response to the editorial in The Forum on July 13, “N.D. animal abuse law is a failure,” I wish to point out that the law the Legislature passed this past session does not go into effect until Aug. 1. It’s unfair to state that the law is weak and seldom enforced when it has not even been implemented yet.

I also believe it’s unfair to suggest that Cass County authorities somehow had prior knowledge of the situation near Wheatland, N.D. There was no prior complaint filed with the Cass County authorities or with our office regarding the owner of this dog kennel. If there is suspicion or concern raised by anyone, it prompts an investigation by the authorities, our department or both. In light of the above fact, the particular statement, “…the conditions at the Wheatland kennel had to be known by neighbors and authorities… How bad do conditions in which dogs and other animals are living have to be before law enforcement moves?” A response is warranted as soon as it is brought to the authorities or our attention. Without just cause, which is based on a complaint or a suspect case, the law does not allow for agencies or law enforcement to randomly show up at someone’s home, kennel or pet shelter to do a random inspection.

An anonymous person called the state veterinarian’s office in the North Dakota Department of Agriculture on July 8 and reported their concern that something may be amiss. The caller indicated that about 20 dogs were at the location. Our office staff called the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. They dispatched a deputy to the scene to further investigate the situation. The officials, with the assistance of a local veterinarian, found just cause to acquire a court order to confiscate the dogs.

By Wednesday afternoon, 170 dogs had been removed from the premises and taken to the Casselton (N.D.) Veterinary Clinic, where they are receiving needed care from the staff. The outpouring of concern in the Fargo area for these animals is commendable. It is thanks to the anonymous caller and the Cass County law enforcement officials that these animals are currently being well cared for.

I am disappointed and believe that making aspersions about the integrity of these officers is unwarranted. Legal protocols must be followed by officials who are responsible for enforcing the law, investigating allegations and taking action as needed. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office staff should be commended for their extremely prompt response.

Goehring is North Dakota commissioner of agriculture.