Many Asking for Harsher Penalties Following Dog Seizure - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Many Asking for Harsher Penalties Following Dog Seizure

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Still no word on whether or not the 51-year-old owner of 170 dogs seized from a farm near Wheatland, North Dakota will face charges for neglecting them.

The dogs remain at Casselton Veterinary Service where they are being quarantined for 14 days because of their terrible living conditions.

Since our story aired, many of you raised the question about why penalties are not tougher for situations like this. We looked into what needs to change.

Professional dog trainer Mary Higdem is saddened by the pictures of the dogs, showing a great deal of neglect. "People that are just breeding to breed to make money of it, aren't ethical at all," she says.

It is further proof, she says, that puppy mills need to be shut down, explaining, "We will send people into places and have them look it over, go inside, sometimes they might bring a secret camera."

If they think conditions are bad, they will call the sheriff's department, to have them come in, but even if animals are seized, Higdem says any penalties in North Dakota are just a slap on the wrist.

"It's gotta change enough to where it scares the people. It scares the people so they don't thing about doing something like that," adds Higdem.

Under the current North Dakota law, the owner could face a Class A misdemeanor. That is a year in jail and a $2000 fine, but he could also get a count for each dog. That sounds good right? Well, not exactly.

Cass County Assistant State's Attorney Leah Viste says, "Say we did charge 50 different counts of animal maltreatment. That person was ultimately convicted for 50 counts, they would still only receive one year of jail time maximum, and it couldn't be run consecutively."

Even under the new law, which will take effect in August, it could take a third separate offense before a felony charge would be applied. At that point a person could get five years in jail and a $5000 fine.

But that is still not good enough for Higdem. She says, "He's only going to get maybe a year and $2000 fine, what's to stop him from doing it again. That's a slap on the wrist."

That is why she will continue to do what it takes to bring harsher penalties to those who neglect animals.

Higdem says many people, herself included, have written letters to lawmakers to make the laws even tougher when it comes to neglect. But she adds, a lot of them just need to go into these places, walk around and listen to the animals living there to see the horrible conditions for themselves.

Viste says the biggest issue here is we live in an agricultural state. A lot of farmers and ranchers would have to deal with statutes that would be impractical for them with a stiff animal cruelty law. Viste says a law needs to be crafted that protects farmers to a point but includes protections for domesticated animals.
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