The North Dakota Senate has unanimously passed a comprehensive overhaul of North Dakota’s animal welfare laws.
The Senate voted 45-0 on Friday to move Senate Bill 2211 to the state House for consideration. Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, and Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, were absent.
Discussion on the bill lasted only a few minutes before the Senate voted to move it along.
Voters in November widely defeated Measure 5, which would have added a felony charge for cruelty to dogs, cats and horses. Many people reported having a problem with the exclusion of other animals, while others worried about the influence of out-of-state animal rights groups on the proposal.
But even prior to that idea making the ballot, North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care, a partnership of agricultural and animal welfare groups across the state, already was working on revamping the state’s animal laws.
SB2211 would define separate types of animal mistreatment, make animal cruelty a felony, set a penalty for leaving an animal in a vehicle without ensuring its safety and set out a clearer process for seizing animals than offered under current state law.
The bill, in its original form, would have made animal abuse, neglect or abandonment a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony for a second or subsequent offense within five years. However, the Senate amended the bill on Tuesday to keep such charges as misdemeanors for a first or second offense but make a third offense within 10 years a felony.
Another change approved by the Senate on Tuesday would make mistreatment of any kind to a “band, flock, herd, litter, pack or other collective of same-species animals” a singular incident. That means someone accused of mistreating any number of the same species of animals would face one charge rather than one charge per animal.
Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmont, and Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, urged their colleagues to pass the bill. Luick congratulated voters on voting down Measure 5 so that the more comprehensive SB2211 could take shape. Flakoll said the measure “provides protections for animals and their owners.”
“It is a bill whose time has come,” Flakoll said.