Animal cruelty bill heads to Senate

Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 11:38:03-04

It's been four years in the making.

A felony animal cruelty bill that most Gem state legislators seem to agree on is making its way to the governor.

The bill passed in the house and is now headed to the senate for a full vote sometime this week.

The senate co-sponsor for the bill says this year's finalized draft aims to address the root causes of cases involving tortured pets.

Under the proposed animal cruelty legislation, torture of a companion animal could be classified as a felony on the first offense if the accused has been convicted of any crime involving a physical act against a human in the past ten years.

No convictions? Then, a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge would be filed. And, if it happens again, prosecutors would then have the felony option.

Senate co-sponsor of the bill, Jim Rice, who helped write the draft, added language that requires a mandatory pre-sentence psychological evaluation, regardless of whether it's a misdemeanor or felony animal cruelty conviction.

"Instead of going down the road of let's increase penalties, let's increase punishment, what we really did was say let's address the issue, the root cause of these kinds of incidents," he said.

The definition for animal torture was also clarified to alleviate any concerns on part of the agriculture community. Rice said they too had a hand in crafting the new draft and moving it through the system, along with house leadership and House Agricultural Affairs Committee Chairman Ken Andrus.

Idaho Director for the Humane Society of the United States Lisa Kauffman said: "This bill actually exempts production animals and accepted ranching practices in the state."

Kauffman believes "Patches," the mutilated pony case out of Rupert, underlyingly serves as inspiration for all sides that seem to agree that it's time Idaho has a felony provision for animal cruelty.

"I also think this case with 'Patches' was so horrific that even legislators in the past who, maybe, didn't want to get involved step forward," Kauffman said. "We had a lot of support on this bill. So, I just want to thank everybody who has helped it along the way and contributed."

Another benefit, if the law passes, is that it will line up with the FBI's new focus this year to better track cases of animal torture. Many times, serial killers start experimenting on small animals.