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Published April 01, 2012, 07:33 PM

Petitioning for a Tougher Animal Cruelty Law

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A petition asking for a harsher penalty for animal cruelty in North Dakota has been approved by Secretary of State Al Jaegar.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A petition asking for a harsher penalty for animal cruelty in North Dakota has been approved by Secretary of State Al Jaegar.

If enough signatures are collected, an initiated measure will be on the November ballot allowing voters to decide if animal cruelty can become a Class C Felony, a debate lawmakers discussed the past two sessions.

Efforts to reform animal cruelty laws aren't new in North Dakota. As just one of three states that treats cruelty to pets as a low-level misdemeanor, animal advocates are fighting for tougher laws.

"Those states are all agricultural states, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho, and they're vetting these proposals just the same as we are," Grand Forks District 42 Representative Corey Mock said.

Representative Corey Mock of Grand Forks drafted a bill during the 2011 Legislative Session that would have allowed felony charges for a person who committed multiple animal cruelty offenses in a short period of time. That bill failed.

"It would have not only enhanced our laws and given the appropriate flexibility for egregious offenses, but it would have protected the agricultural industry by exempting them from the law," Mock added.

This initiated measure is a little different. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty would face a felony after just one offense. This measure only addresses cruelty against pets, that's dogs, cats and horses.

Humane societies across the state, like Circle of Friends in Grand Forks, are saying this measure is a step in the right direction.

"At this point, this is a good place to start. I think we want to get something in place that does name a Class C Felony as a penalty," Circle of Friends Humane Society Executive Director Arlette Moen said.

This measure also includes a provision that would allow judges to decide if offenders need counseling to prevent further animal abuse.

"It's been shown that people that abuse animals may go on to abuse people as well. So it may help that too to make sure that those people are counseled," Moen said.

Sponsors of the petition drive must submit 13,452 qualified signatures by August 8th to get the measure on the November 6th general election ballot.

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