Kristine Seabolt, Minot
North Dakota lawmakers are busy responding to citizen demands that the state's lackluster animal cruelty law be strengthened, and as the manager of the Souris Valley Animal Shelter I am pleased to see the debate that has emerged on the capitol floors over the necessity for laws that adequately punish animal abusers here.
We believe that this conversation can result in improved lives for animals in the Roughrider State, and that state lawmakers are working toward fulfilling their political promises to build strong punishments into the law for the worst offenses. S.B. 2211 shows promise, but it is far from perfect. We can only hope that the House closes current draft loopholes that would allow criminal defendants to escape prosecution if they can show that they are breeding or training animals, potentially creating a loophole for cruelty and neglect by puppy mills and other large-scale breeders. It would also be a shame-in a state where herds of animals are the norm-if an amendment passes to S.B. 2211 that further specifies that any violation of neglect, animal abuse or animal abandonment involving more than one animal in the same incident amounts to a single offense for purposes of determining whether the violation is a first, second, third or subsequent offense. The herd of 250 Burleigh and Morton counties horses would be treated as one incident if that language passes, and that doesn't pass muster.
On the surface, S.B. 2211 in its current form would make malicious acts of animal cruelty punishable by up a class "C" felony. Acts of neglect, animal abuse and animal abandonment are not punishable as a felony unless three separate offenses occur within 10 years.
We don't need any more exemptions. We just need cruelty to be treated as cruelty in the eyes of our laws. Let's keep this conversation going, and keep our concerns flowing into our representatives' chambers: North Dakotans care about our animals. Let's start treating them that way. Pass S.B. 2211, but please strengthen it!