Opinions vary on animal cruelty measure in Dickinson forumFinding someone in favor of animal abuse might be hard to do. Representatives of both sides of a measure to increase the penalty for abuse to dogs, cats and horses say they have the best interest of these companion animals at heart. But opinions differ on how to provide more protection through the law.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
Finding someone in favor of animal abuse might be hard to do. Representatives of both sides of a measure to increase the penalty for abuse to dogs, cats and horses say they have the best interest of these companion animals at heart. But opinions differ on how to provide more protection through the law.
That was the focus of a Measure 5 forum Thursday night at Dickinson State University.
Measure 5, if passed, would change the abuse or malicious killing of a cat, dog or horse from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Those for Measure 5, represented by JoDee Foss of Pet Project ND, Dr. Shelly Lenz, veterinarian in Killdeer and Dickinson, and Karen Thunshelle, chairwoman for North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, used a ballot initiative because they feel the legislative process has failed to provide protections in the past.
Those representing the opposition, Jason Schmidt, with the North
Dakota Animal Stewards, Dr. DelRay Martin, with the North Dakota Veterinary Medicine Association and Jim Kerzman, a farm/rancher and former District 31 representative, feel that the legislative process is the best way to shape changes to the North Dakota Century Code where animals are concerned.
Questions were posed for the six panelists by a moderator, Associate Professor Sethuram Soman of the DSU Agriculture Department, and the audience.
“What is currently legal will continue to be legal,” Lenz said. “We hope to accomplish this measure by being proactive in dealing with some of the most extreme cases of animal cruelty.”
The opposition is concerned that the measure is not specific enough and that changes are harder to make through the Legislature to a ballot
“You have hearings on both sides of the aisle, you have the governor look at it, you have more people to give approval of it and look at it and dissect it,” Kerzman said.
There were also concerns of outside funding coming to the Measure 5 campaign, especially from the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Schmidt was worried that part of the HSUS message is anti-meat, specifically anti-beef.
“(HSUS’s Humane Eating campaign) works to replace animal-based foods in the diet and replace them with plant-based foods,” he said. “They also have a video of meatless Monday campaigns, which they are promoting to take meat out of the diet.”
The creators of Measure 5 defend the use of outside funds.
“I’ve been dealing with these groups for decades,” Lenz said of animal rights groups and her previous work as a researcher. “I know how to deal with them. It’s a situation of hold your friends close and hold your enemies closer.”
Opponents to the measure are worried that it will derail work done to revamp North Dakota Century Code through the Legislature.
“A ballot measure would tie the hands of the legislature for seven years without a super majority vote and would hinder the efforts of North Dakota shelters, vets, zoos, farmers and ranchers and regulators,” Schmidt said.
Because the measure is very simple and starts by upping the abuse of cats, dogs and horses from a misdemeanor to a felony, it allows any other work to continue.
“It’s the horses, the cats and the dogs that I get the calls for that need the help and need the protection,” Foss said.
The voters will decide Tuesday.