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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

North Dakota: Vote YES! on Measure 5 to Stop Animal Cruelty

Just two decades ago, only seven states had felony-level penalties for animal cruelty (California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin). Fortunately, there has been a steady drumbeat of lawmaking on this issue over the last 20 years, mostly led by The HSUS, HSLF, and state and local animal welfare groups, and now 48 states punish some forms of animal abuse as a felony offense, with Mississippi and Idaho being the most recent states to upgrade their anti-cruelty statutes.

But there are still two hold-out states—North Dakota and South Dakota—that punish even the worst forms of animal cruelty with just a slap on the wrist. That could change this November, as voters in North Dakota will have the opportunity to do what the legislature has failed to do, and toughen up the state’s anemic and outdated animal cruelty law.

Hsus_nd_logoToday, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger officially certified Measure 5 for the November 6th statewide general election ballot, after volunteers gathered more than 25,000 signatures of North Dakota voters. Thanks to the outpouring of support from North Dakotans, the North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty campaign exceeded the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by 88 percent.

Measure 5 would make it a class C felony for any individual to maliciously and intentionally burn, poison, crush, suffocate, impale, drown, blind, skin, beat to death, drag to death, exsanguinate, disembowel, or dismember any living dog, cat, or horse. At the discretion of the court, violators could be ordered to undergo mandatory psychological or psychiatric evaluation and counseling, including counseling in responsible pet ownership or animal cruelty prevention, and ordered not to own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for up to five years after the date of the sentencing. The law would provide appropriate penalties for the worst types of cruelty, but would not alter the existing misdemeanor law for less serious offenses such as unintentional neglect.

It reflects a sense of misplaced priorities when it’s currently a felony to spray paint a building if you cause $2,000 in damages, but only a misdemeanor to set a puppy on fire. The current animal cruelty law is extremely weak and completely out of sync with North Dakota values, and it’s long overdue for a course correction. Help support the YES! on Measure 5 campaign in North Dakota, and bring us one step closer to making extreme animal cruelty a felony in every state.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund

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