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ND couple says sheep rules are costing them money

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota couple is asking a livestock council to change the rules on regulating a certain breed of sheep.

Autumn and Travis Bennett recently bought six painted desert sheep from Montana because they liked the colors and wanted animals with horns that didn't need shearing. They later discovered that North Dakota regulations do not allow the sheep to be turned out to pasture over fears they could escape captivity and interbreed or spread disease among the wild bighorn sheep population.

The Bennetts, who have a hobby farm near Walhalla, say it's forcing them to pay more for feed and supplements.

"It's a mess," Autumn Bennett said.

The Bismarck Tribune reports that ( in other states, such as Montana and Colorado, painted desert sheep are considered domestic animals rather than wildlife. The Bennetts say that should be the case in North Dakota as well.

The Non-traditional Livestock Advisory Council is revisiting how it regulates sheep breeds not considered mainstream. Painted desert sheep are among several breeds of sheep regulated because of their ancestral connection to wild horned Mouflon sheep.

"They're (Mouflons) escape artists," said advisory council member Terry Lincoln, who directs the Dakota Zoo. "Anything you put them in they're likely to get out."

The Bennetts got the necessary permit and built the required 8-foot high fence to keep their six painted desert sheep. She said none of the animals have tried to get out.

The council voted unanimously to form a subcommittee to gather information from breeders, breed registries and other state veterinarians about painted desert sheep and hybrids like it. The subcommittee will report its findings back to the council, which will make recommendations to the North Dakota Board of Animal Health.