BOISE • Idaho’s first felony punishment for animal cruelty isn’t off the table yet.
This session, the Idaho House and Senate each produced legislation to toughen the state’s animal cruelty laws. Both bills stalled, but the House is moving to amend the Senate’s version and make it law before the session ends.
The original Senate bill would have created a felony for the third charge of animal abuse with malicious intent. Those three strikes would have to occur within a 15-year period, and would not apply to normal agricultural animal practices, like branding or castrating.
The bill passed the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee, but had been sitting on the reading calendar until Monday. And while the House passed its own version, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, won’t hold a hearing for it.
At a Monday joint meeting of the House and Senate agriculture committees, Siddoway said he polled colleagues.
“I think I have only one member on the committee that’s willing to take (the House bill) and move it forward,” Siddoway said. “I’m not going to ask my committee to bleed over this.”
Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, was one of those against hearing the House version. He doesn’t feel there’s enough time in the session to adequately consider the matter, especially after all the work that went into the Senate legislation, he said.
After the joint meeting, the House declared its solution: Add amendments to the Senate’s bill to include anti-cockfighting provisions, and abandon the torture definitions for this session.
If the amended legislation passes the House, it will return to the Senate, but bypass Siddoway’s committee.
Lisa Kauffman, Idaho State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, said she was heartened by the move.
Another sign of progress, she said: The livestock industry has agreed to come together with the Humane Society for a summer working group to consider future pieces of animal cruelty legislation, a move she appreciated.
“I fully understand where the ranching and cattle and production animal industry is coming from,” Kauffman said.