Pets Unleashed

Idaho Humane Society: Proposed anti-torture law is ‘paper tiger’ – doesn’t offer enhanced penalties over existing cruelty statute

I asked Idaho Humane Society Executive Director Jeff Rosenthal, DVM, and other local animal welfare advocates to give 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).

Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of Idaho Humane Society

Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of Idaho Humane Society

Here’s what Rosenthal said in a written response:

“In the last session of the legislature, Idaho’s animal cruelty law was significantly improved by the passing of a 1st offense cockfighting felony. The same bill provided a third offense felony cruelty penalty for intentional and malicious acts of cruelty. This later provision has been criticized for being little more than a “paper tiger” and House Bill 111 appears to be a similar creation.

It’s possible that if passed, House Bill 111 could in the future be amended to significantly enhance the penalty for malicious acts upon animals and that hope could be a basis for support. However, we are concerned that this placebo of a bill will be marketed as an actual cure by the legislature. House Bill 111 does not solve the problem of Idaho’s weak cruelty laws.

House Bill 111 consists of a definition of companion animal torture; a most severe and intentional act, but does not provide for an enhanced penalty over the existing cruelty statute which already encompasses “the intentional and malicious infliction of pain, physical suffering, injury or death to an animal.” Any such act to either a companion or livestock animal is currently punishable as a misdemeanor upon 1st and 2nd offenses and a felony upon a third offense within 15 years. House Bill 111 provides the same penalties for torture of companion animals but without the time limitation.

Many states have animal cruelty statutes which include a category of aggravated cruelty, which are those acts that can be proved both intentional and severe, and provide for a 1 st or 2nd offense felony penalty for such acts. As currently written, House Bill 111 will have little impact on animal cruelty enforcement and prosecution. If amended to provide 1st or 2nd offense felony provisions, then it could be considered a significant step forward. The Idaho Humane Society strongly supports laws that provide for the protection of all animals, including those raised for the purposes of food and fiber.

These animals deserve to be protected from the malicious infliction of pain to the same extent as those which may be defined as ‘companions.’ In addition to enhanced penalties for animal cruelty, the Idaho Humane Society also advocates for a requirement for psychological evaluation and treatment for perpetrators of animal cruelty.”

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