Several animal and veterinary organizations in North Dakota have banded together as the North Dakota Animal Stewards (NDAS) to fight Measure 5, a ballot initiative slated for the November elections.
The proposed ballot initiative is being pushed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is rankling North Dakotans who believe the state’s own citizens and animal experts should decide what is best for animal care in the state, and not outside special interest groups.
The NDAS is a group composed of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Lamb & Wool Producers Association, North Dakota Pork Council, North Dakota Deer Ranchers Association, Humane Society Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota Elk Growers, the Milk Producers Association of North Dakota and other animal stakeholders.
“The North Dakota Animal Stewards coalition represents salt-of-the-earth North Dakotans who work with and care for animals every day in their respective capacities as farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, pet shelter workers, pet owners and other stakeholders,” says Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.
“These people are vested in this issue and work day in and day out to make sure animals receive proper treatment. They are looked to as the experts on this topic, and that's why when they collectively say Measure 5 is wrong for animals and this state, people listen.”
Measure 5 would make it a class “C” felony for cruelty to dogs, cats and horses. On the NDAS website, Jason Schmidt, North Dakota Stockmen's Association president and a fourth-generation Medina, N.D., farmer and rancher, says "It is poorly worded by design to give animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States a foothold in North Dakota to make more sweeping changes later, like they've done in places like Missouri, California and other states."
Ellingson adds that Measure 5 is deeply flawed, focusing on only three species of animals and rarely (if ever) seen acts against them. “At the same time, the measure is silent on the most common forms of mistreatment in the state and is poorly worded, leaving lots of room for interpretation and unintended consequences, even for those who care for animals,” she says.
Organizations such as Missouri Farmers Care have been down that road before and have offered their support to the NDAS. In an email this week, the Missouri organization says, “Like they did with Proposition B in 2010, HSUS is pushing a ballot initiative, Measure 5, which appears to help animals but in fact does little good for animal welfare.