Update March 30, 2010: This bill, S.B. 1317, passed the Idaho state senate unanimously but died in the House of Representatives.Â
For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.Â
The Idaho Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee chaired by state Sen. TimÂ Corder hasÂ passed a bill he has championed to improve the state’s weak animal cruelty laws. Idaho has one of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the U.S.
Instead of only dog fighting, under S. 1317, cockfighting and all other animal fighting would be a felony. Â The crime would include anyone who "knowingly owns, possesses, keeps, trains, buys or sells any animal for Â the purpose of" fighting and anyone who "knowingly advertises, promotes, organizes, Â participates or knowingly has a monetary interest" in an animal fight.
Being a spectator at a cockfight or any animal fight would be a crime under this bill.
The bill defines the crimes of neglect and torture of an animal and adds "medical care" as a requirement for owners. Neglect is defined as "an act involving failure to provide for animalÂ health or safety including, but not limited to, failure to provide adequate Â food, water, medical care or shelter to an animal or to adequately confine Â an animal in a manner appropriate to its species, breed, age and condition." Abandonment of an animal would also be a misdemeanor crime under this bill.
Torture is defined to mean "every act, omission …whereby the Â willful and malicious infliction of pain or suffering is caused, permitted Â or allowed to continue when there is a reasonable remedy or relief." The bill provides animal control or law enforcement can take custody of tortured animals.
The bill also defines animal shelters and requires that the state Dept. of Agriculture maintain a list of public and private animal shelters. The shelters are not required to register, however, and are not otherwise regulated by this bill.
As with any animal cruelty bill, the devil is in the exceptions and penalties.
Under S. 1317, torturing an animal would still be only a misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence of not more than one (1) year or a fine from $800 to $9,000, or by both.
The bill also sets up a scheme of slightly increasing penalties for violations of the animal cruelty laws other than torture or animal fighting. Under the scheme the first offense would be a misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence of not more than six (6) months or by aÂ fine anywhere from $400 to $5,000, or both. A second offense would mean a jail sentence of not more than nine (9) months or a fine anywhere from $600 to $7,000, or both. A third and subsequent offense would mean up to a year in jail or a fine of $800 up to $9,000, or both.
The fines are divided among local and state agencies with the idea of giving law enforcement an incentive to prosecute these crimes.
Prior offenses would include those committed in another state or in violation of federal law.
The exceptions are broad: "Nothing in this chapter prohibits the lawful demonstrations of the hunting, herding, sledding, working or tracking skills of dogs, the lawful use of dogs for hunting, herding, Â working, sledding, tracking or self and property protection, the use of Â dogs in the management of livestock, or the training, raising, breeding or Â keeping of dogs for any purpose not prohibited by law."
Under current Idaho law, the animal cruelty laws do not apply to the killing of any animal that is not on his owner’s property, and which is "found injuring or posing a threat" to any person, farm animal or property. Pretty broad. Does this mean if the neighbor’s dog looks like he might tear up your flower beds, "threat[en]…property", that you can just kill him? Torture him? Â
The current law also excludes "any other exhibitions, competitions, activities, practices or Â procedures normally or commonly considered acceptable." This could be just about anything.
Farm animals are not protected as long as they are treated according to "normal or accepted practices of animal identification and animal husbandry", which can mean anything. The bill attempts to define this with this language: "as established by, but not limited to, guidelines developed and approved by the appropriate national or state commodity organizations". Again, as with Issue 2 in Ohio and the proposed Livestock Care Standards Board in Kentucky, agri-business would determine standards of animal care and treatment. This bill also adds "equines" to the animals defined as held for production of food and fiber.
The current law also excludes animals held for research or slaughter.