Virginia Hemingway is a spokeswoman for a coalition of animal-welfare advocates called Idaho 1 of 3 (so named because Idaho was one of three states that didn’t have a felony on the books for animal cruelty until last year). The group collected signatures across the state last year, in the hopes of getting a ballot initiative to ask voters to toughen Idaho’s animal cruelty laws. They fell short of the 47,000 signatures needed.
I have asked Hemingway and other local animal welfare advocates to to share their opinions of House Bill 111, sponsored by Idaho House Agriculture Committee Chairman Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. The bill defines torture and creates a felony penalty for a third conviction (for companion pets only, not livestock).
Here’s what Hemingway said in a written response:
“Representative Andrus has given me the opportunity to provide input on the animal cruelty issue in the last two years. I want to commend him for at least trying to pass legislation that will begin to stop animal cruelty. He is working in an atmosphere that is very intolerant of felonies for animal cruelty.
Unfortunately, as a result of the intolerance in the legislature, we are once again faced with a piece meal ‘it’s better than nothing’ bill. The bill that allows someone to commit torture three times on an animal before they are charged with a felony is absolutely appalling. We are talking about torture; not forgetting to leave water for your dog one day or not providing adequate shelter.
The legislature is telling everyone that it is fine with them if you knowingly and willfully inflict ‘unjustifiable and extreme or prolonged pain with the intent to cause suffering.’ They are also telling those who have production animals that they can commit torture and there will be absolutely no consequences because this bill only applies to companion animals i.e. pets.
Welcome to Idaho, the place where torture is tolerated! We are already a haven for animal abusers, this piece of legislation does very little to prevent more abuse.
Idaho 1 of 3′s petitioned to put an initiative on the ballot that would have made torture a first offense felony and helped stop repeat offenders did receive enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 2012. Unfortunately, too many petitions were passed out without adequate instructions and about one-third of the signatures were invalidated.
The legislature needs to realize they are ignoring the wishes of more than 50,000 Idahoans. We are seriously considering doing an initiative for the 2014 ballot which will make torture a first offense felony because I believe if you are willing to tolerate three convictions of torture; you are condoning torture.”