2017 Animal Seizure Bill Creates Questions

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A new law requires a veterinarian to sign off before law enforcement can come in and seize an injured animal.

Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring was an advocate for this bill when it passed during this latest legislative session, saying concerns have been raised that law officers may have ulterior motives when seizing an animal. He said a due process was needed to make sure more harm is not inflicted on animals. Although this bill now requires a vet to be involved in the process, it also makes the process more complicated.

Whether in a rural or urban area, it may not always be ideal for a veterinarian to assist law enforcement or animal control.

Lt. Jeff Solemsaas; Oversees Animal Control: “I just think it’s fairly unrealistic. A lot of our cases occur after hours; weekends, nights, things like that where there’s not a veterinarian working and it’s sometimes very difficult to get a hold of one.”

Animal Control was under the impression this law did not apply to them. 
The state vet thought otherwise. When I asked for clarification, I kept getting the same answer.

Dr. Susan Keller; State Veterinarian: “That is up to interpretation.”

Meaning the county state’s attorney gets to make that call.
She explained why the law was written with such loose language.

Dr. Susan Keller; State Veterinarian: “It’s important that each case be analyzed uniquely. Sometime it’s more dangerous to have too prescriptive regulations and then not consider all the information that’s at hand.”

We reached out to three of the bills sponsors. Two of them said in hindsight this is not a good piece of legislation. The third, the bills primary sponsor said he wrote this bill with his rural community in mind. But the question for animal control officers has not been answered; are they breaking the law by taking severely injured animals from their owners without a veterinarians permission. The Bismarck Police Department’s animal control division has asked the State Veterinarian for her opinion on the matter. The State Vet has not responded to their request for clarification. We spoke to the attorney general’s office, they said they could not clarify the law until someone asks for an opinion.
 

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