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Published October 08, 2012, 11:18 AM

Preventing animal cruelty

The issue of inhumane treatment of animals has drawn increasing attention in recent months.

By: Doug Goehring , Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — The issue of inhumane treatment of animals has drawn increasing attention in recent months. North Dakotans want to protect animals from malicious abuse as well as common animal mistreatment, but differ on how to achieve this goal.

One group has proposed a ballot initiative that I think is too limited in scope, affecting only dogs, cats and horses. I wish to share with you a legislative solution developed by North Dakota stakeholders, including local animal shelters, zoos, veterinarians, farmers, ranchers and the State Board of Animal Health. They have worked together to offer a comprehensive approach that clarifies, provides protection to all animals, offers guidance to officials and establishes penalties that fit the offense.

Developing a plan

More than two years ago, these stakeholders — North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care — developed a legislative solution protecting all animals from even the most common forms of mistreatment, cruelty and abuse.

A few have grumbled that this issue should have been addressed in the previous legislative session. When the people who would become the NDRAC began working on a draft document for legislation, they did not have time to work out the details before the Legislature met, and momentum was lost amid all the new issues and concerns facing the state. Since then, they have had time to work on the details of a well-thought-out plan that I think is a better means for preventing animal cruelty and neglect. I applaud their tenacity and determination in dealing with this sensitive and contentious issue.

Bringing the matter before the Legislature gives all North Dakotans an opportunity to play a role in this important issue through contact with legislators and by providing oral and written testimony. A ballot measure, if approved, could not be changed for seven years without a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature. North Dakotans should not have to wait seven more years for a comprehensive animal protection law.

NDRAC’s language has been carefully crafted to address the concerns of all animal owners and caretakers. You can read the complete text at

Before voting this fall on the animal cruelty ballot initiative, please consider the impact your vote could have on the passage of a more comprehensive solution for all animals in North Dakota. I urge you to contact your state senators and representatives and encourage them to support the NDRAC proposal in the 2013 legislative session. We can and should protect all animals in the state.

Editor’s Note: Goehring is commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.