BOISE – Legislation to make dogfighting a felony in Idaho won final passage in the House on Thursday on a unanimous 67-0 vote.
“We want those dogs to be safe – they are our friends and our companions,” said Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell.
“We have no use for those who participate in the cruel act of organized dogfighting.”
Rep. Donna Boe, D-Pocatello, told the House, “I don’t know about your constituents, but mine throughout southeastern Idaho have been asking for three years for this bill.”
The proposal, SB 1260, earlier passed the Senate overwhelmingly. It now goes to Gov. Butch Otter, who has pledged to sign it into law.
The change ends Idaho’s distinction as one of just two states – the other is Wyoming – in which dogfighting isn’t a felony.
The measure sets maximum penalties of up to five years in prison and $50,000 in fines.
Attending a dogfight as a spectator would be a misdemeanor; it’s now legal in Idaho.
Though the measure won unanimous support in the House, not everybody was completely pleased.
Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said he feared people arrested for dogfighting would wind up in prison for the maximum five years, costing Idaho hundreds of thousands of dollars when lengthy community service would be a more practical punishment.
“That’s if they get a judge that really loves animals,” Harwood said. “I’m going to vote for this bill, but I’m going to do it holding my nose.”
Harwood said, “I’d much rather see a penalty of a big fine and then community service. I think that would’ve been a better way to go. But that ain’t here, and we’re gonna be voting on this.”
The Idaho Humane Society, Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Woolgrowers Association, Idaho Department of Agriculture, Idaho Prosecutors, Idaho Sheriffs Association, the federal prosecutor’s office and many sporting dog groups supported the bill.
Agriculture groups had opposed anti-dogfighting legislation in the past three legislative sessions, raising concerns about whether they’d affect working dogs used in herding livestock.
Those concerns were allayed by an agricultural exemption in this year’s bill.
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