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March 30, 2012

Idaho Felony Animal Cruelty Bill Praised as Step in the Right Direction

S.B. 1303 strengthens state’s laws on cockfighting, companion animal abuse

The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) are encouraged by the Idaho legislature’s passage of a bill that would strengthen the state’s cockfighting law and provide for stronger penalties in some cases of animal torture. Although the felony cruelty penalties will only apply for repeat offenders who had been convicted of animal cruelty twice before, the groups called the bill a positive step in the right direction and hope Idaho lawmakers will further upgrade the anti-cruelty statute in the future. 

Sponsored by Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, and Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Twin Falls, the legislation would make organizing a cockfight a first offense felony if illegal drugs or gambling are involved, and a second offense felony if razor-sharp gaffs, instruments or chemical enhancements of any kind are used on the birds. In addition, the bill would make animal cruelty with malicious intent a third offense felony. Under existing law, each of these crimes is a misdemeanor, with no felony penalties even for the worst repeat offenders. Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, sponsored an earlier version of the bill.

The bill will now move to Gov. Butch Otter for enactment. The HSUS and the ASPCA are urging the governor to quickly sign this important bill into law. 

“Idahoans have long wanted stronger penalties in place to deter extreme acts of animal cruelty and the organized staged combat of cockfighting, and this bill is a positive step forward,” said Lisa Kauffman, Idaho state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States thanks Representatives Lake and Andrus and Senator Brackett for their leadership efforts on this anti-cruelty measure, and we urge Governor Otter to swiftly sign it into law.”

If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Otter, Idaho will become the 40th state to have felony-level penalties for cockfighting, and the 48th to have some form of felony-level penalties for extreme acts of animal cruelty.

“Animal cruelty is viewed as a serious issue by law enforcement and mental health professionals, who recognize the strong link between animal abuse and human violence,” said Ann Church, ASPCA vice president of state affairs. “Idaho is one of only three states in the nation without felony animal cruelty penalties, and we urge Governor Otter to quickly voice his conclusive support for this bill by signing it into law and protecting not just Idaho’s animals, but also its residents.” 

Idaho ranks 50th in The HSUS’ 2011 state animal protection rankings, which grades each state based on a wide range of animal protection laws dealing with pets, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife, animals in research, horses and farm animals.

Media Contacts:    Stephanie Twining/HSUS: 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org 

       Rebecca Goldrick/ASPCA: 646-291-4582, Rebecca.Goldrick@aspca.org

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