Missy, a young Chihuahua, walks around her foster home with her legs going in slightly different directions. It is not uncommon for her to fall over, but it is completely out of her control.
Missy has cerebral hypoplasia, a condition in which her brain is underdeveloped because of nutritional deficiencies in the womb.
Missy was one of 50 dogs that were seized from a Mott home on Halloween.
Mary and William Ziegler are each facing a Class C felony for animal cruelty and a Class C misdemeanor for animal neglect.
A felony jury trial will be held at Southwest District Court on March 15.
Senate Bill 2297 would regulate commercial dog breeding to ensure animals like Missy are getting the required amount of care.
The bill will be presented to the Agriculture Committee Thursday and would be the first of its kind in North Dakota.
“North Dakota is one of 16 states that hasn’t dealt with or created specific oversight for commercial dog breeding,” said TJ Jerke, North Dakota Humane Society director.
He said the bill would mandate a licensing system where veterinarians would be able to check on the standards of the breeding programs.
Currently, the only licensing system is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture which Jerke said has minimum requirements for licensing.
The USDA said the minimum requirements are to be used as a base requirement for states to build on, he said.
Beth Grandell, president of the rescue group Second Chances, said it is time North Dakota starts making laws to protect animals — especially when it comes to breeding dogs.
“I’m just somebody who really wants to see it passed because it’s such a necessary thing,” she said. “Requiring that they maintain basic standards of care is such a simple but profound action that could really prevent a lot of suffering.”
There have been five large animal seizures since 2010 including the Mott rescue:
199 dogs were rescued from one property in Bowman County in 2010
In 2013, 170 dogs were seized in Cass County. After being rescued, some of the female dogs gave birth, which totaled 212 dogs in all
In 2015, 64 dogs were seized in Barnes County
“A lot of these cases that happened here in North Dakota were from individuals that were unlicensed,” Jerke said. “When these large dog seizure cases do happen, the local non-profit groups are called upon by local law enforcement to help assist.”
Tasha Hermanson, president of Bakken Paws, said their organization took in 20 dogs and have adopted out 14 with the other six being in foster homes.
She said it puts a strain on the volunteers when there is a mass rescue like in Mott.
“Some of us take in more than others or what you’re able to because they are skittish,” she said. “They’re not kid-friendly. They don’t really like other animals. So, it’s a struggle finding a place for them. I think we kept them here in the store temporarily, but most of them had fosters right away.”
She said the Mott dogs were not well socialized, which presented issues, and some of the animals like Missy showed obvious signs of neglect.
While some of the neglect was internal, she said that there were obvious signs of mistreatment.
“Most of them were covered in feces,” she said. “These dogs they were matted. They weren’t cared for. They were dirty. They were very underweight.”
Grandell said North Dakota ranked 48th for animal protection laws, which she hopes will turn around if the bill is passed.
“In terms of dog breeding, there’s really nobody that is watching out for them,” she said.
The bill would place a specific definition for commercial dog breeders, defined as a person that “during any twelve-month period, possesses or maintains five or more intact female dogs at one time for the primary purpose of breeding and selling the offspring of the dogs.”
The bill would also mandate that a commercial breeder must provide each dog with food at least once a day and each dog must be provided with potable water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae and other contaminants.
It would also place requirements on dog housing, enclosures and ventilation.
Under the bill, at least one veterinarian examination must occur once a year for each breeding dog and a state veterinarian or designated licensed veterinarian would make at least one unannounced inspection annually.
Under the current proposal, any violation by a commercial dog breeder would result in a class B misdemeanor for the first offense and a class A misdemeanor for subsequent violations.