A bill that would expand animal cruelty laws across the country is awaiting a signature from President Trump after it passed the House and Senate. But animal advocates in our region say more needs to be done to protect animals in North Dakota.

According to an animal protection agency, North Dakota ranked as the 44th worst state for Animal Protection Laws in 2018.

In North Dakota, any person who willfully engages in animal neglect is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

This can be anything from not providing the proper amount of food, water, shelter, or not seeking medical attention for your animal. But there are some gaps in our laws when it does come to animal protection. For instance, there are no felony provisions for neglect, abandonment, or sexual assault of animals.

Co-founder of Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue Julie Schirado says, “We are just scratching the surface of where we need to get to in North Dakota. It’s a tricky state here.”

1,200 to 1,500 animals go through Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue per year.

The new bill congress has just passed would expand a 2010 law that made creation or distribution of so-called “animal crushing” videos illegal and make the underlying acts of cruelty a federal crime. The bill has been sent to the president’s desk for signature.

Schirado says it’s progress. “When both houses come together and get on the same page for an animal cruelty bill, that’s huge,” she says. “That’s huge to the little guys in North Dakota, so we are excited about it.”

Stricter animal cruelty laws are something Lonn and Jenny Iverson also want to see. They adopted their dog Henry towards the beginning of this year. Henry was run over and left on the side of the street to die. Luckily Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue rescued him and helped him receive extensive surgeries

Lonn and Jenny Iverson say, “Would you do that to a human being? Would you like that for yourself? They are a live animal. They have feelings. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean you can abuse them.”

The Iversons say something needs to be done to make people take these crimes more seriously.

“I don’t think [animal abusers] should be allowed to adopt another dog or have any,” the Iversons tell KX.

Schirado says most of the time, the people who abuse the animals at their shelter rarely are caught or receive any punishments. She says she hopes North Dakota does more to protect animals.

“We do need stricter laws and at some point, North Dakota is going to have to face that and until that we are just going to keep doing what we are doing. We love animals but we can’t save them all,” says Schirado.

Lawmakers of the North Dakota House voted overwhelmingly this year to kill a bill that aimed to tighten animal cruelty.

Click here to learn more about Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue and how to help.