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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho lawmakers kill popular ‘pet-friendly’ license plate bill, then kill it again

Proposed ‘pet-friendly’ Idaho license place, which the Idaho House rejected on Monday, March 12, 2018. (Marissa Morrison / KIVI-TV)

Idaho lawmakers on Monday unexpectedly killed popular legislation to create a “pet-friendly” special license plate to benefit low-cost spay and neutering services in rural Idaho.

The ailing Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, had worked on the bill for several years; he’s been out ill for this year’s entire legislative session, with substitutes filling in for him, and hasn’t filed to run for re-election. When his House colleagues brought the bill forward for him – calling for creation of the special plate that featured a heart-warming photo of a dog and cat – the bill died on a tied 31-31 vote in the House.

Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, moved to reconsider the vote, in which eight House members were absent. But when the new vote was taken, the bill failed again, this time on a 32-31 vote.

Between the first vote and the second one, two representatives switched from “no” to “yes,” two switched from “yes” to “no,” and one, Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, who had missed the first vote, voted “no” in the second one.

There are often many “no” votes in the Idaho House on proposed specialty license plates from lawmakers who are concerned that Idaho already has enough of those, though not usually enough to defeat the bill. The House has just passed another specialty-plate bill, to honor Rotarians.

But Hartgen cited a different motivation: The bill was listed on the House calendar as “to provide for Idaho Humane Society’s pet friendly license plates.”

Hartgen said, “I love puppies and kitties. But the Humane Society is the most aggressive anti-agricultural entity that works around the West, and I just couldn’t vote to support them.” He said he believed the group had worked against dairies and confined-animal feeding operations in his region.

He was actually referring to the Humane Society of the United States, a national animal-welfare organization that has a state director in Boise. But the license plate bill involved the Idaho Humane Society, the non-profit that operates the Boise animal shelter, which picks up lost pets, spays and neuters animals, and provides for pet adoptions.

The Boise organization volunteered to provide the up-front funding for the new license plate and administer the fund, but it wouldn’t be eligible to receive any of the funds raised. Instead, any profits from sales of the plate would have been distributed to licensed veterinarians across Idaho for low-cost spay and neutering programs, or free spay and neutering programs to serve low-income pet owners.

Lisa Kauffman, Idaho director for the HSUS, said her group supported the bill. “But I knew if my name was on it, they wouldn’t have done it,” she said. “It’s really a bummer, because this plate had a ton of support.”

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said she received more than 800 emails from supporters of the bill from all over the state – more than she’s received for any other bill this session.

Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he voted against the bill to be consistent, because “we’ve done so many license plate bills” and he thinks the state has enough. However, he said, “My sister’s going to freak out when she sees I’ve done that.” Mendive said his sister is an animal lover and an animal-rescue volunteer.

King said, “Obviously these folks don’t understand it. … I just thought it was a great bill.”