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Rep. Heather Scott proposes bill to protect sled-dog racing

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 10, 2017, 9:32 p.m.

Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

BOISE – Saying she wants to ensure that state law doesn’t make felons of Idaho dog-sledding participants, state Rep. Heather Scott is asking the Legislature to exempt mushers from the state’s ban on dog racing.

Scott, R-Blanchard, persuaded a House committee on Friday to introduce her bill amending a law imposed in 1996 amid concerns over reported abuse of greyhounds raced at a North Idaho dog track. The ban makes live dog racing, training dogs for live racing, or betting on dog races a felony.

The North Idaho representative said she was prompted to look into the matter after another bill came through the committee to provide an exemption from the dog-racing ban. That exemption, pushed by Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, at the request of his local county fair manager, would exempt betting-free dog races with very short tracks conducted as exhibitions at county fairs. That’s a sideshow event that several Idaho fairs may book from an out-of-state vendor.

Scott said she wanted to make sure the felony prohibition on dog racing and training didn’t apply to sled dog races, which she said are popular in her district.

“I checked Legislative Services, and discovered the sled dog races that take place in my district would fall under this legislation,” Scott told the committee this morning. “The language is vague, and the way it reads, there could be an argument made that sled dog racing falls under dog racing.”

Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, told Scott he’s been inundated with mail “about greyhound racing and all the terrible things that they did to the greyhounds and that sort of thing. How do I explain that they don’t do that same thing to (sled) dogs, to my constituents that are going to be calling me?”

Scott said her bill notes that “the proper care, humane treatment and protection of a dog participating in a sled dog race shall be the responsibility of its owner,” and that it must be conducted in accord with Idaho’s existing law on proper care for animals, which is cited in her bill. “This part of code does deal with the treatment of dogs and care and animal cruelty and all those sort of things,” Scott said.

The House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to introduce Scott’s bill, clearing the way for a full committee hearing. The measure still would need passage in both the House and the Senate and the governor’s signature to become law.

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