Animal politics – Will North Dakota make animal abuse a felony?
Update: By an overwhelming majority of voters, North Dakotans chose not to make animal cruelty a felony. One can only hope they will not become the only state to think setting a cat on fire is only worth a misdemeanor, but as of right now they remain one of two states who do – the other is South Dakota.
Yes. Election politics is definitely in the air. It’s hard to miss it these days.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until Wednesday when all the political ads will go silent for another two years. (At least I hope they do, otherwise, we will have entered a new level of hell.)
I think I am pretty well-versed on the political issues up for a vote in Minnesota on Tuesday, but recently I started to wonder what political issues might be pending that had to do with animals and animal welfare. Thanks to my friend Paul, I discovered there was one. In North Dakota.
Unlike Minnesota and Montana, neighboring states, North Dakota does not currently make animal abuse a felony. In fact, the most an animal abuser in North Dakota can be charged with is a misdemeanor, even in the most extreme cases.
This year, North Dakotans will have the opportunity to vote on Measure 5, which will make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm a dog, cat or horse. The question is, will they?
They currently regard all kinds of animal fighting, not just dog fighting, as a felony. Why not malicious and intentional animal abuse?
The answer may lie with state and national agribusiness groups. They are fighting like mad to make sure it doesn’t pass and it appears they may be succeeding:
About three weeks ago the Valley News Live Mason-Dixon poll found that 66% of people surveyed said yes to Measure 5. Which would make it a class c felony for extreme cases of animal cruelty. The most recent poll found a substantial drop, 44% supported the measure with 49% saying no.
So what are state and national agribusiness groups opposed to? Most likely, the involvement of the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS has poured a good amount of money into this fight, and for many North Dakotans, this rankles their fiercely independent nature.
But is there more to be concerned about?
Opponents of the bill list these two items as problematic:
- The language doesn’t cover the type of neglect or abuse most commonly seen in North Dakota – everyday abuse, neglect, and abandonment (Although, it appears they are covered by other state laws.)
- It doesn’t cover all animals, just cats, dogs, and horses (The bill was specifically designed to exclude hunting, trapping, fishing, agriculture, animal research, and protecting personal property or safety – something I would think most North Dakotans would approve.)
I assume that most abused animals are dogs, cats and horses, but maybe the opponents feel other animals should be included? Farm animals? Wild animals? It seems kind of odd that the special interest groups excluded from the measure (hunters, trappers, fishermen and farmers) would argue the bill is too limited and should include other animals, but what do I know? Maybe that really is what they want. Huh. Who’d have thunk it?
One thing I know for certain, there are a great number of strong proponents and opponents on both sides of this issue. The list of those opposed to the measure includes – Ag, Cattle, Deer and Elk Coalitions, farm groups, and veterinarians. The list of those who support Measure 5 includes many animal welfare and rescue groups, veterinarians and law enforcement officials.
So will Measure 5 pass on Tuesday? Will North Dakota voters support making an animal abuse a felony? I don’t know, but we will certainly know by Wednesday, November 7th.
- For more information on Measure 5 go to: Yes! In Measure 5 and Vote “No” on Measure 5
- Measure 5 spending tops $1 million
- Pending legislation on animal rights and wildlife issues (by state) can be found at VoteSmart.org
- 5 worst states to be an animal: Abuse laws lax (Please note: This report was done in 2010, since that time Idaho has made animal abuse a felony.)