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Published June 14, 2012, 09:25 PM

North Dakota's weak animal crueltly laws could soon be changed

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- It's been said North Dakota has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the country, but now one coalition is trying to change that.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- It's been said North Dakota has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the country, but now one coalition is trying to change that. The group is proposing legislation that would redefine cruelty laws and stiffen penalties.

The proposed legislation includes protection for all pets and livestock, providing laws for everything from how to cage animals, to what to do with animals in the car.

Nukhet Hendricks - Executive Director of FM Humane Society: "Educating the public on the proper and humane treatment of animals is difficult when the current laws don't entirely support such care."

Under the new law most violations would be a considered a misdemeanor, but a second violation within 5 years or any conduct that causes serious injury or death would be a Class C Felony. That comes with a maximum 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Doug Goehring - North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner: "It also provides clarity and guidance to those that are enforcing the law."

We've seen animal cruelty first hand over the past few months, like the slaughter of 13 cows near Hankinson. With this legislation officials are hopeful more severe punishments can serve as a deterrent.

Jason Schmidt - North Dakota Stockmen's Association President: "We are all about protecting those animals, but at the same time protecting those ag interests and the livestock heritage we have had for generations."

A ballot initiative is floating around with similar ideas, but it only covers dogs, cats and horses. If enough signatures are received and the measure passes the proposal would tie the legislature's hands for seven years due to state law.

Jason Schmidt: "The beauty of this work that we have put together is that we have went in and defined those terms so there is not such a narrow focus."

The coalition doesn't believe it will face any opposition in as it's already received the support of several legislators. The law will be proposed when the legislature meets in 2013.

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