Legislation to make a third-time offense of torture of a companion animal, like a pet cat or dog, a felony has cleared the House Agriculture Committee, with three members objecting in the voice vote. It’s now headed to General Orders in the House, for addition of a technical amendment.
Committee Chairman Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, sponsor of HB 111, said, “If you do it three times you are a felon. You can be charged with a felony. Under this bill you can be convicted of a felony.” The bill wouldn’t apply to livestock production, only to pets.
Lisa Kauffman of the Humane Society of the United States cited a litany of horrific animal abuse cases from across the country, from kittens intentionally drowned on video to puppies skinned and decapitated; she included a few abuse cases from Idaho. “It just gives you an idea, it happens – it’s out there,” she said, her voice breaking.
Rep. Gail Batt, R-Wilder, said she thought the anti-animal torture bill went too far in that similar actions against children could, in some cases, just be misdemeanors. “ I think it’s wrong that we’re trying to move public policy to where … we’re going to have stronger stands for Idaho’s animals than we do child abuse laws here in the state of Idaho,” she said.
Brent Olmstead, executive director of Milk Producers of Idaho, told the committee he’s in the rare position – for the first time ever – of taking a position neither in support nor opposed to the bill. “I do want to be on the record for down the road when another bill comes up similar to this that includes production animals, and it will happen,” he said. “This bill provides a consternation for Milk Producers of Idaho, in that things keep happening in small pieces.”
Andrus, a rancher, said if the Legislature doesn’t stiffen penalties for animal torture, animal welfare groups will propose more far-reaching legislation through a ballot initiative. “I feel we don’t have time – we need to be proactive,” he said. “Without doing something, I don’t think we can defend ourselves from a ballot initiative.” Joining Batt in opposing the bill were Reps. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree.