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Senate disagrees with House changes to animal abuse bill

BISMARCK -- Senate lawmakers could not agree Wednesday with the House changes to a bill that seeks to crack down on people who abuse, neglect or abandon animals.

Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 2211, said the amended bill does not address all the issues that voters wanted in 2012 after initiated Measure 5 asked to enhance cruelty charges but failed in a statewide vote.

"I think we need to look at using some of the days ahead to work towards solutions that do have a universal acceptance and plug holes that are out there," he said.

One large concern was with the House amendment that lowered penalties for a second offense.

The original bill defined the four offenses as animal abuse, cruelty, abandonment and lack of adequate care. All were Class A misdemeanors for the first offense -- punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine -- and Class C felonies for a second or subsequent offense within five years -- punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

As amended, the bill lays out specific definitions for abuse, cruelty, neglect and abandonment.

Each carries a differing penalty based on the severity of the crime.

Abandonment and neglect would be Class A misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence, $2,000 fine or both.

Abandonment is defined as giving up control of an animal without intention of reclaiming it and without placing it in another person's custody.

Neglect is willfully engaging in neglect in regard to food, water, shelter and environmental conditions for dogs and cats. All other animals are exempt from the environmental condition provision.

Abuse is defined as any act that results in physical injury or death of an animal. It would be a Class A misdemeanor for the first and second offense -- punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence, $2,000 fine or both -- and a Class C felony for three or more offenses in 10 years, carrying a maximum five-year jail sentence, $5,000 fine or both.

Cruelty would be a Class C felony if a person intentionally breaks any bones, causes extreme pain, prolongs impairment of health or physically tortures an animal.

Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who asked the Senate to agree to the amendments, said the bill represents a lot of compromise and large change to current law.

"Even with the changes, it represents a broad massive step towards the direction of assurance toward animal welfare," he told the Senate.

The motion to concur with the amendments failed by a 38-9 verification vote.

Missing child

With no hesitation Wednesday, lawmakers sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple Senate Bill 2125, which would require a child's caretaker to report the child missing or possibly face a felony charge.

The bill defines a caretaker as an individual responsible for the physical control of a child, either the biological or adoptive parent, or an individual acting as the caretaker at the request of the child's parent. The bill does exempt teachers.

A caretaker would have 24 hours to report a child missing if the child is under 13. If the caretaker willfully failed to report the child missing within a reasonable time afterward, the person may be charged with a Class C felony, carrying a maximum five years in jail and $5,000 fine.

A caretaker with a child age 13 to 17 would have 48 hours to report the child missing. If the caretaker willfully failed to report the child missing, the person would be guilty of a felony.

The bill also would require a caretaker to report a child's death or location of the child's body to law enforcement within two hours, or be charged with a felony if the caretaker willfully failed to do so.

This provision exempts a death of a child while under the care of medical personnel.