BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Supporters of a bill in the Legislature to strengthen North Dakota's animal cruelty laws say it's a more balanced approach than a measure rejected by state voters last November.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Supporters of a bill in the Legislature to strengthen North Dakota's animal cruelty laws say it's a more balanced approach than a measure rejected by state voters last November.

The ballot measure would have made cruelty to dogs, cats and horses a potential felony crime rather than a misdemeanor. Opponents objected to its backing by out-of-state groups and feared it could have affected routine practices by farmers and ranchers.

Senate Bill 2211 would make animal cruelty a felony. In cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment, a first offense would be a misdemeanor and a second within five years a felony.

North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care Chairman Jason Schmidt says the bill is the result of two years of work by veterinarians, agriculture and animal groups, and local humane societies.