by Andrew Crisp
Animal welfare advocates met at the Idaho Legislature Tuesday morning to take part in "Humane Lobby Day," in part to urge lawmakers to make animal torture a felony. Idaho is one of three states without a felony animal cruelty law.
On Feb. 13, lawmakers voted to send House Bill 111 to the floor, but emphasized the need to exempt production animals like livestock to protect Idaho's agricultural community from potential felony charges.
According to organizers, that bill could be stronger, but moves Idaho "further down the field" toward stronger laws against animal cruelty and abuse.
This week's meeting was also designed to give the public information. In a garden level meeting room, Lisa Kauffman, Idaho State director for the Humane Society of the United States, offered a group of approximately 20 citizens information from a presentation on animal cruelty and abuse. She called violence against animals not just an animal issue "but a community issue."
"The animal welfare movement has been nonexistent here for a while, and it is just getting going," Kauffman told the audience.
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Monica Morrison said citizens should also lobby their elected sheriffs and prosecutors to push for stiffer penalties for offenders.
"One thing that's really shocking is how difficult it is to prosecute these cases," said Morrison.
In Canyon County, issues related to animal welfare are more commonly related to neglect, which she said is harder to address than incidents of intentional violence. She said often times neglect is related to hoarding or other psychological issues, and that getting neighbors to testify is difficult.
"Why are these cases difficult to prosecute? The animals can't tell you what happened," she said.