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Animal cruelty bill moves forward

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Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:45 am

Cruelty to animals is one step closer to becoming a Class C felony.

The North Dakota House cleared Senate Bill 2211 on Wednesday by a 90-1 vote, with one absent member.

“This is a good bill that provides protection to animals and also protects our state’s No. 1 industry, which is agriculture,” said Rep. David Rust (R-Tioga).

The vote comes just weeks after a unanimous approval in the Senate and months after Measure 5 failed with 65 percent of the vote.

The measure was supported by out-of-state animal rights groups and covered only dogs, cats and horses, with provisions many ranchers feared would affect their business.

“If it keeps out-of-state animal rights activists from coming to our state to put initiatives on our ballot, I believe it’s probably a good and proper thing to do,” said Rep. Craig Headland (R-Montpelier), who thought the bill might go too far.

The bill clearly defines four types of mistreatment — neglect, abuse, cruelty and abandonment — with cruelty being the most serious offense, defined as breaking an animal’s bones, torturing, mutilating or causing extreme pain.

For abuse, the penalties move up a tier system.

The first and second offenses are Class A misdemeanors, and a Class C felony for the third and subsequent offenses within a 10-year period.

Other Legislature news:

• The North Dakota Senate approved a voter identification bill Wednesday by a vote of 30-16.

Following 15 minutes of floor debate, proponents argued the bill would strengthen the state’s integrity, while opponents said the problem doesn’t exist in North Dakota.

Sen. Dick Dever (R- Bismarck) said nine cases of voter  fraud are being investigated from the November election and said it would make it more difficult for college students and the elderly without identification to vote.

The voter affidavit process sends the affidavit to voters through postcards, Dever said. He added 10,517 were received and 380 were returned as undeliverable.

“HB 1332 now comes to us to eliminate the voter affidavit process and require an voter ID,” Dever said.

Sen. Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks) said only one case of voter fraud has been found in the last decade and not even a handful in the past 20 years.

He said from 2002 through 2012, according to results from the secretary of state’s office, more than 2.37 million ballots have been cast in primary and general elections.

He compared voter fraud in the state to being struck by lightning, which he said was a one-in-a-million chance.

“By any fair measure there is no problem,” Schneider said. “This bill has no impact on those cases of voter fraud.”

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