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Published April 01, 2012, 10:16 PM

Petition is approved to decide animal cruelty penalty

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- A petition for a harsher penalty for animal cruelty in North Dakota is approved by the state. It'd let voters decide if animal cruelty should be a Class C felony. An issue lawmakers voted down the past two sessions.

By: Meagan Millage, WDAZ, WDAY

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- A petition for a harsher penalty for animal cruelty in North Dakota is approved by the state. It'd let voters decide if animal cruelty should be a Class C felony. An issue lawmakers voted down the past two sessions.

Efforts to reform animal cruelty laws aren't new in North Dakota.. As just one of three states that treats cruelty to pets as a low-level misdemeanor, animal advocates are fighting for tougher laws.

Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks: "those states are all agricultural states-- North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho, and they're vetting these proposals just the same as we are."

Grand Forks Representative Corey Mock drafted a bill during the 2011 Legislative Session that would have allowed felony charges for a person who committed MULTIPLE animal cruelty offenses in a short period of time. That bill failed.

Corey Mock: "would have not only enhanced our laws and given the appropriate flexibility for egregious offenses, but it would have protected the agricultural industry by exempting them from the law."

This latest initiated measure is a little different. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty would face a felony after just one offense. It only addresses cruelty against pets-- dogs, cats, and horses.

Humane societies across the state.. Like Circle of Friends here in Grand Forks.. Are saying this measure is a step in the right direction.

Arlette Moen, Circle of Friends Executive Director: "at this point, this is a good place to start. I think we want to get something in place that does name a class c felony as a penalty."

This measure includes a provision requiring offenders to seek counseling to prevent further animal abuse.

Arlette Moen: "it's been shown that people that abuse animals may go on to abuse people as well... So it may help that too to make sure that those people are counseled."

Petition sponsors need 13 thousand 452 verified signatures by August 8th to get on the November ballot.

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