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ND ranks near bottom in laws penalizing animal cruelty, including those linked to domestic violence

BISMARCK -- Animals in North Dakota rank among the worst-off in the nation in terms of protection against cruelty, a leading nonprofit said Wednesday.

BISMARCK -- Animals in North Dakota rank among the worst-off in the nation in terms of protection against cruelty, a leading nonprofit said Wednesday.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund released its national Rankings Report and found that North

Dakota is 46th out of 50 states in legal penalties for people who commit animal cruelty.

Ranking below North Dakota in legal protection for animals were Utah, Wyoming, Iowa and Kentucky, said ALDF spokeswoman Natalia Lima.

The ALDF found North Dakota failed to pass felony provisions for people who neglect or abandon animals, it doesn't require offenders to give up their animals or undergo mental health evaluations or counseling, and it has inadequate sexual assault provisions.

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It also doesn't allow protection orders to include animals.

ALDF officials said its rankings are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction's animal protection laws, including more than 4,000 pages of statutes, and is considered the longest-running and most authoritative of its kind.

"Protective orders are crucial for removing both human and animal victims from the cycle of domestic violence, because human victims are often afraid to leave their pets behind," said Stephen Wells, ALDF's executive director.

ALDF officials said a study of the preceding five years of their ranking reports showed that more than three-quarters of all states and territories had significantly improved their animal protection laws, including a trend toward allowing animals to be included in protection orders.

"We applaud those states that recognize a clear link between violence towards humans and animals by allowing judges to include animals in domestic violence protection orders -- and we hope other states continue to follow suit," Wells said.

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