Animal cruelty measure draws outside supporters, moneyEarly returns indicated North Dakota voters were skeptical of a measure aimed at increasing protection of animals by adding a felony punishment for certain extreme cases of animal cruelty.
By: By Chuck Haga, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
Early returns indicated North Dakota voters were skeptical of a measure aimed at increasing protection of animals by adding a felony punishment for certain extreme cases of animal cruelty.
With 59 precincts reporting out of 426, the “no” vote led, 23,525 to 11,815 “yes” votes, or 67 percent “no” to 33 percent “yes.” Those early returns included decisive votes against the measure in Ramsey and Cavalier counties. It also was trailing badly in partial returns in Grand Forks County.
Veterinarians, animal shelters and others who care for and about animals found themselves on opposing sides in the fight over Measure 5. It was supported by North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty and would make it a Class C felony to “maliciously and intentionally” harm a dog, cat or horse.
It would not apply to production agriculture or to lawful activities of hunters, trappers, licensed veterinarians or scientific researchers, or to people acting in defense of life or property.
North Dakota and South Dakota are the only states without a felony animal abuse penalty.
The measure was opposed by North Dakota Animal Stewards, a coalition of farming, ranching and other interests, who said they prefer to see the 2013 North Dakota Legislature deal with the issue.
There was an attempt during the 2011 session to pass such a law, but the effort stalled.
Both sides spent heavily to promote their respective call for a “yes” or “no” vote on Measure 5, with campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state’s office totaling well more than $1 million by last week.
Much of the funding for the measure came from the Humane Society of the United States, which opponents sought to discredit as a radical organization.
“Their agenda is to change how animal agriculture functions and works and to stop the ‘exploitation’ of all animals in the United States,” said Doug Goehring, state commissioner of agriculture.
Goehring said he fears passage of Measure 5 “may send a signal to legislators that they don’t need to deal with this issue.”
Ellie Hayes, campaign coordinator for North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, dismissed warnings about the HSUS as unfounded. She also said she is reluctant to leave the issue to Goehring’s coalition and the Legislature.
“These are the same groups that blocked animal cruelty bills in the past,” she said.
Julie Ellingson, a leader of the North Dakota Animal Stewards coalition, said she is “very confident” the 2013 session will produce “a comprehensive piece of legislation” to better protect animals.