New animal torture legislation passes House

A second conviction of animal torture would become a felony charge

New animal torture legislation passes House

Pocatello, Idaho - Mary Remer, director of the Pocatello Animal Shelter, has seen a lot of pets come and go, but one in particular stands out.

It was a dog that had been viciously beaten with a baseball bat.

He had numerous skull fractures, a broken leg and a hefty vet bill paid by the citizens of Pocatello. She wants to see greater punishment for something like this.

"That has to be something we need to step up and say, 'That's not acceptable in our society,'" Remer said.

Remer says this qualifies as animal torture - someone wanting to intentionally hurt an animal, and she says it may not stop there.

"I really do believe that that's a situation that could lead to, down the road," Remer stated, "some human could be in danger with this guy."

The Idaho House of Representatives has approved a bill that toughens animal abuse laws. 

The new measure will make it a felony for anyone convicted twice of torturing a domestic pet. 

Many people are worried how this law will be enforced. Animal Control Officer Franci Turner said that Pocatello Animal Control officers exercise extreme discretion when it comes to deciding how best to handle all situations they come across.

Turner said how someone looks at an animal has a major impact on what they consider neglect, abuse, or torture. 

"They're my family. You know my animals are my family," said Turner. "They don't see animals like that. They're just an animal and they can do whatever they want with them. I think that's why a lot of people are against [harsher punishments]." 

The majority of the problem, according to both Turner and Remer, is that livestock is not incorporated in the law. Because of that, Remer said this legislation will help very little.

"I don't think we're going to use it very often. I think that most of our cases that we handle we can handle in court, educating the owner, just correcting the problems and making sure it doesn't happen again," Remer said.  "But I do believe that it's needed."

Remer also said with her and the officer's training and experience, certain fears from the animal-owning community should be alleviated.

These fears can include Animal Control Officers claiming felony torture of animals prepared for food, citing someone for not interfering with two dogs in a fight or even leaving an animal in a car while you make a quick trip into the store.

Turner said circumstance is everything, and certain situations domestically will not be affected, but that certain livestock situations should be.

"I'd love to see livestock involved in that, not just domesticated animals. but the livestock that we deal with, I've seen a couple instances where we should have been able to do something about that."

While not every case is as extreme as a beating, the main point Remer made focused on education: making sure people who own animals know how to properly take care of them, finding out what and when vaccinations are needed and when veterinary care will be necessary.

Last year, the Idaho House approved a similar measure that made a third conviction a felony, leaving only North and South Dakota without any felony animal cruelty laws.

The current legislation still needs to go through the Idaho Senate and the Governor Butch Otter. 

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