A third attempt at legislation to protect animal rights in general unanimously passed the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon.
The House and its 16 members present during the House session Tuesday on Capitol Hill passed Rep. Edwin K. Propst’s (Ind-Saipan) third iteration of an animal rights protection bill, House Bill 21-59, HD1.
The bill now goes to the Senate for similar passage.
The legislation makes it a misdemeanor to violate the proposed law, punishable by a fine of not more than $500, plus 250 hours of community service at an animal shelter or related animal care organization. The punishment will be imposed on people who are mistreats, abandons, or neglects any animal.
The legislation also imposes heavier consequences if the animal dies or suffers bodily injury as a result of the violation; if the violation involves extreme malice; if the person has a prior conviction for a previous similar violation; or if the person engages or promotes dogfighting. The violation makes it a misdemeanor offense and includes a fine of at least $500 but not more than $1,000 and 500 hours of community service at an animal shelter or care organization.
The legislation also allows the CNMI courts to order the defendant suspected of the violation to participate in an available animal cruelty prevention or education program, or obtain psychological counseling to treat mental health problems contributing to the violation, with the defendant responsible for the costs, among other things.
The legislation further allows the seizure, hearing, and disposition of animals if there is a probable cause to believe that any animal has been involved in violent and cruel acts, including the use of reasonable force to enter private property, including vehicles, to rescue an animal.
Exemptions in the legislations include conduct consistent with traditional customs or cultural practices—including slaughter for personal consumption and cockfighting; legal hunting, fishing, or trapping practices; self-defense from reasonable threat of an attack by an animal; lawful research or teaching; or an accepted method of controlling rodents, pests, or snakes.
The fines collected in the legislation will go directly to the municipality from which it was fined, with the expenditure authority going to the mayors.