Legislators running out of time

After a ballot measure to strengthen the state’s animal cruelty laws was defeated by North Dakota voters last fall, the bill’s critics and state lawmakers told animal rights supporters not to worry. The 2013 Legislature would take care of passing a stronger law to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, they said.


We’re waiting.

It appears lawmakers can’t agree on details of a bill. Members of the Senate don’t like some changes to Senate Bill 2211 made by the House, especially an amendment that would lower penalties for a second offense. But the whole point of the original legislation and the ballot initiative was to raise the penalties and punishments for animal cruelty and abuse because the state’s current law is simply not a deterrent. The original legislation defined animal abuse, cruelty, abandonment and lack of adequate care as Class A misdemeanors for the first offense and Class C felonies for second and subsequent offenses.

Opponents of Measure 5 argued before the November vote that the state didn’t need laws at least partially written or influenced by out-of-state organizations like the Humane Society of the United States. The state needed legislation written by North Dakotans, they said, who best understand that the state’s rich agriculture heritage and long-standing ranching, rodeo and other animal practices must be protected from any radical out-of-state interests.

Voters obviously did not want the law, and the measure was defeated.

But now, the 2013 Legislature is winding down, and we’re still waiting for legislators to make good on their claims that they can best handle the animal cruelty issue. If they don’t, Measure 5 supporters and North Dakota voters in general will have been essentially hoodwinked. If legislators fail to reach an agreement in the waning days of the 2013 session, how soon will animal rights supporters in the state begin writing their next measure to put before the voters?