Animal groups offer alternative to proposed ballot initiative

FARGO – North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care (NDRAC), a diverse group of animal stakeholders, is proposing new legislation that strengthens and clarifies the state's humane treatment of animals law and offers a better, more comprehensive response to animal mistreatment than a proposed ballot initiative.

NDRAC is comprised of representatives from Dakota Zoo (Bismarck), Central Dakota Humane Society (Mandan), Humane Society Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Stockmen's Association, North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, North Dakota State Board of Animal Health, and North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

“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.”

The NDRAC's draft language addresses animal abandonment, neglect and cruelty, and spells out appropriate exemptions to clarify the law's intent. It also includes an array of penalties to reflect the severity of the act, from infractions for slight offenses to class C felonies for the most serious crimes, including repeat offenses and actions resulting in serious injury, serious illness or death.

The proposed language also provides clarity and guidance to law enforcement officers and licensed veterinarians handling cases of animal mistreatment.

“Clarifying the law and addressing the various types of animal mistreatment and appropriate penalties allows law enforcement officers to better respond when animals are neglected and abused,” said Nukhet Hendricks, executive director of the Humane Society Fargo-Moorhead. “Having a law that protects all animals helps organizations like ours better fulfill their missions to protect the animals.”

“This group is working to provide a legislative solution that protects all animals and those who treat them appropriately,” said Jason Schmidt, rancher and president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association. “Caring for animals is a priority for livestock producers like me and companion animal owners alike. We are partners in this effort to make sure good stewardship is the standard and the appropriate exemptions are included.”

“The group has been working together for more than two years on efforts to improve the humane treatment laws. The collaboration by various animal stakeholder groups, from shelters to agriculturalists, truly exemplifies that North Dakotans can work together to reach solutions good for the entire state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

Additional information can be found at the NDRAC website, http://www.ndanimalcare.com/.