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North Dakota Legislature Passes Animal Cruelty Bill

Felony penalties a step in the right direction, but falls short of what voters were promised

The North Dakota legislature has passed S.B. 2211, which establishes some felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty.

Karen Thunshelle, North Dakota state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “North Dakota is one step closer to having some felony-level penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty, and it would not have happened but for Measure 5 putting this issue on the public agenda.

“This is a step in the right direction for North Dakota’s animals, but it’s disappointing that the bill was watered down from its original version and falls short of what voters were promised. Every major newspaper in the state called on lawmakers to honor their word, but the Farm Bureau and agribusiness groups worked to scuttle it and weaken the law.

“We are encouraged by this important step and hope Governor Dalrymple will sign it into law, making North Dakota the 49th state with some felony-level penalties for animal cruelty. We also look forward to working with legislators in the future to fortify the law and fill in the gaps that were left throughout this process.”

S.B. 2211 establishes first-offense felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty toward all animals and third-offense felony penalties for repeat offenders of lesser acts of abuse. The Senate-passed bill originally included third-offense felony penalties for repeat acts of neglect, but the House stripped that provision from the bill, which now treats neglect only as a misdemeanor, regardless of how many times it occurs. S.B. 2211 also provides some minimum welfare standards for dogs and cats in high volume breeding operations, which The HSUS supports.

The Senate passed the bill 43-3. The House voted 80-12.

If the bill is signed by the governor, North Dakota will become the 49th state to have a felony animal cruelty law, leaving South Dakota as the last remaining state without felony penalties.

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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