Measure 5 friends, foes find common groundNorth Dakota legislators and others who opposed the recently defeated ballot measure aimed at creating the state’s first felony penalty for severe animal cruelty have drafted a bill establishing such a penalty, and backers of the failed initiated measure have offered a qualified endorsement.
By: By Chuck Haga, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — North Dakota legislators and others who opposed the recently defeated ballot measure aimed at creating the state’s first felony penalty for severe animal cruelty have drafted a bill establishing such a penalty, and backers of the failed initiated measure have offered a qualified endorsement.
The ballot measure, which addressed malicious abuse of horses, dogs and cats, was soundly defeated in the November general election after opponents — including major farm and ranch organizations and the state agriculture commissioner — urged voters to leave the issue to lawmakers.
The group sponsoring the measure, North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, noted during the campaign that the Legislature had failed to adopt a felony penalty for the worst cases of animal cruelty in several previous sessions, leaving North Dakota one of just two states (with South Dakota) lacking such a penalty.
After their measure was defeated, backers of toughening state animal cruelty laws promised to press for action in the 2013 legislative session. On Tuesday, Karen Thunshelle, the group’s campaign manager, announced qualified support for the intent of a draft bill proposed by the opponents.
“North Dakotans were promised an all-inclusive felony animal cruelty law if they voted against Measure 5, and we plan to make sure that promise is fulfilled,” Thunshelle said. “The election made clear that both proponents and opponents of Measure 5 agree that we need an animal cruelty law that better reflects our values, and we plan to work to make sure that that happens.”
Thunshelle expressed support for the effort in a letter to Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, who has worked with others to prepare a bill draft for possible introduction in the session that opens next month.
She said her group “believes it’s a good starting point for establishing a felony cruelty law,” but suggested “that it be strengthened in a few key areas.”
Thunshelle cited as an example the bill draft’s “very broad exemption for ‘humane destruction of an animal for just cause.’ However, neither ‘humane destruction’ nor ‘just cause’ is defined, which could lead to confusion about which actions it exempts and abuse of the exemption.”
Thunshelle also expressed concern that some sections of existing statutes are not reflected in the proposed legislation, including a section prohibiting such activities as dog-fighting and cock-fighting.
Flakoll said Thunshelle visited with him briefly at the Capitol Tuesday to deliver the letter and express the Measure 5 group’s appreciation for his sponsoring the new proposed legislation.
“I think they and others understand we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of work put into this, and I think we’ll have a piece of legislation that people feel comfortable in voting for,” he said.