BOISE — Legislators are eyeing several new bills to make life better for man’s best friend.
Two of the bills are expected to pass by the end of this session; a third bill is expected to be introduced next year.
Senate Bill 1244(aa), sponsored by Sen. Mark Nye, a Pocatello Democrat, is affectionately called the “hot dog” bill by senators. It would provide immunity from civil liability and criminal prosecution for people giving certain kinds of aid to a pet in distress. The bill applies to all pets, but usually pertains to dogs.
Dogs will go into heat stroke when their internal temperatures reach 107.5 degrees, said Lisa Kauffman, senior state director with The Humane Society of the United States. Temperatures in cars can easily rise to 120 to 130 degrees.
“If you see a dog in a car in a parking lot — even if the window is cracked open — and the dog is foaming at the mouth, listless or panting, (the bill) gives you permission to remove the animal from the vehicle to save it,” Kauffman said.
The rescuer must believe that the dog is in imminent danger of suffering death or serious bodily harm, must call law enforcement, and must do the least amount of damage possible to get the pet out of the vehicle.
“Pets suffer horrible deaths in hot cars,” she said. “I know people don’t mean to do it, but they lose track of time. With no airflow in cars, dogs’ internal temperatures rise and they end up cooking from the inside out.”
When writing the bill, senators realized Idaho has no similar protection for rescuing children from hot cars, Kauffman said, so Nye is also sponsoring Senate bill 1245, with nearly identical wording, while swapping “child” for “pet.”
Pet-friendly license plate
The U.S. humane society and the Idaho Humane Society are working jointly to create the “pet friendly” specialty license plate to fund spay and neuter services to rural areas or low income families.
House Bill 540, sponsored by Boise Democrats Rep. Hy Kloc and Rep. Melissa Wintrow, would provide a needed community service, said Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, CEO of the Idaho Humane Society.
Rosenthal has been with the Idaho Humane Society for 18 years. The Idaho group has eight full-time veterinarians on staff.
“The U.S. and Idaho humane societies are two entirely separate entities, that sometimes work together,” Rosenthal said.
“Both (organizations) have had an interest of getting this in place. It’s an idea that has been floated for years.”
The past roadblock was deciding how to distribute the money, he said, but that has been overcome.
“The Idaho Humane Society agreed to hold the funds in a restricted account and not charge any administration fees,” he said. “As the largest animal welfare organization in the state, we have the financial infrastructure to keep that account secure.”
A portion of the funds from each pet-friendly plate will go into the account, and an independent board of directors will decide how the money is doled out, Rosenthal said.
“Some of the shelters in Idaho have spay and neuter programs for either low income families or feral cats,” Kauffman said. “But the rural areas have little to nothing.”
The Idaho Humane Society also agreed to pay the set up fee to the Idaho Department of Transportation, which runs about $5,000, Rosenthal said.
Once the bill is approved, the Idaho Transportation Department will finalize the design.
Specialty license plates are an effective way of funding special projects, Kauffman said. For example, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has three plate designs that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for specific research or management funds.
The U.S. humane society is also supporting a bill that would prohibit dogs from being held outdoors in freezing or sweltering conditions without protection from the elements. The bill has had some push back from agricultural producers, Kauffman said.
The Idaho Legislature is now waiting for Utah this session to pass a similar bill that defines “shelter” in terms of outdoor pets, she said.
“We want them to realize we’re not going after agriculture,” she said, “that’s why we need to have a definition of shelter (in the law).”
Kauffman expects the bill will be introduced in the 2019 Idaho Legislature.