Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Idaho Law Continues to Lag Behind the Times

Idaho remains one of only a few states (4 or 5) where there is no felony for animal cruelty. Yet another bill died in committee this year, despite exempting livestock. The cattle and dairy people are usually against any attempt to revise animal laws, but it is strange that even when expressly exempted, there is enough opposition to these laws that they don't get passed. In part I think it's an attitude. The majority of the Idaho legislature is Republican, religious, and do not view animals as family members but as things to be utilized - for food, sport, etc. While I don't think they endorse animal cruelty, they aren't willing to define it or penalize it either. Cock fighting is a huge problem in Idaho, particularly in hispanic communities, and yet goes virtually unchecked. While the Idaho Human Society is active in Ada County, there is no statewide agency that deals with animal welfare. Each year many animal crimes are not prosecuted, and of those that are, the penalties are not very severe. A new move is afoot to raise the maximum fines in Boise from $300 to $1000. Perhaps a tiny step is better than none, but I wish we could move much further forward. Many people who torture animals go on to abuse or even murder humans; if we took animal cruelty as a warning sign and seriously dealt with it, could we deter more violent behavior against humans? I would think even those who don't care about animals might see some merit in improving laws if the justification were human-based. It's sick to live in a place where someone can literally torture your pet and hardly suffer any consequence.

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