Lawyer says misdemeanor under Boise's Municipal Code is "viable" for woman boxing her dog

Posted at 4:15 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 14:22:10-04

BOISE, Idaho — UPDATE: This article was updated on 5/6/2020 at 10:48 a.m to reflect changes made. With the location of the incident confirmed and on the record, the material now includes new information about Boise’s Municipal Code “5-1-10(2) cruelty to animals”. Adam P. Karp explains how this code could produce a viable charge.*
A Snapchat video taken Monday right here in the Treasure Valley has gone viral. Thousands of social media users are commenting and sharing a video showing a young woman in boxing gloves swinging at her dog. Towards the end of the video, the young woman punches her dog to which you can hear the dog yelp. In the background, you can also hear a male chuckling and the female responding, “I hit him so hard, I felt that!”

Treasure Valley residents and social media users outside of Idaho expressed concern over the video. The Idaho Humane Society received a large volume of complaints before issuing a statement on their Facebook page.

Since the incident occurred within Boise City limits, the Ada County Prosecutors Office says that Boise’s City Attorney will review the case.

While under review, Idaho News 6 reached out to Adam P. Karp, who practices animal law in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State. He has no affiliation or tie to this case. After showing him the video and the Humane Society’s Facebook post, Idaho News 6 wanted to know from a legal perspective if this young woman violated Idaho Code 25-3518 (beating and harassing animals).

Karp tells us, “while I believe it would be very hard to prove a crime under Idaho Code 25-3518, I see a viable charge under Boise Municipal Code 5-1-10(2)(a), which does not require proof of intent or malice or suffering.” Adding, “even for purportedly de minimis injuries (again, the dog did not appear to suffer injury but momentary suffering, construing the facts in the light most favorable to the victim), the Boise code may apply.” He says, violating this code is a misdemeanor.

Mr. Karp first breaks down the Idaho Code in question as well as Boise’s Municipal Code that may apply in this instance.

Under state law, the State must prove that she “cruelly beat” or “maliciously treated” the GSD.

  1. Cruel is defined at 25-3502(5) as :

(a) The intentional and malicious infliction of pain, physical suffering, injury or death upon an animal;
(b) To maliciously kill, maim, wound, torment, deprive of necessary sustenance, drink or shelter, cruelly beat, mutilate or cruelly kill an animal;
(c) To subject an animal to needless suffering or inflict unnecessary cruelty;
(d) To knowingly abandon an animal;
(e) To negligently confine an animal in unsanitary conditions or to negligently house an animal in inadequate facilities; to negligently fail to provide sustenance, water, or shelter to an animal.

Clearly, she is beating and mistreating the dog, and doing so intentionally. But, that alone is not a crime.

She must be cruelly beating or maliciously treating the dog.

  1. Is her behavior “cruel” as defined by 25-3502(5)?

It does not appear that she is inflicting pain, physical suffering, or injury upon the dog for purposes of (a). If so, the dog would likely cower or retreat or, more likely than not, rip off her hand, and she would deserve it.

(a) does not apply as to the phrase “maliciously maim” or “maliciously wound” as I saw no evidence of physical harm. But is she tormenting the dog? Perhaps. However, the video provides a very slender reed upon which to impugn malicious motivations to her, as her actions seem more impish or impudent than evilly inspired

b) also provides, in oddly circular fashion, that “cruelly” = “cruelly beat,” so we are left looking back to the other prong definitions. Because the other prongs do not, in my opinion, based only on the video and nothing more for my consideration, support that this was “cruel,” this subsection also fails.

(c) would apply if she were subjecting the dog to “needless suffering,” but instead of showing telltale signs of great discomfort or agony, the dog appears to consider it a form of play and jumps at her. The vocalization might be a surprise or momentary suffering, but likely too hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Again, in a circular fashion, the statute defines “cruel” as “cruelty.” Certainly, nothing necessitates her behavior, so the question is whether this amounts to cruelty. Again, looking back to the other prongs, I believe it would be hard to prove.

(d) and (e) do not apply.

Accordingly, I do not see a viable charge under 25-3518 based on “cruelly beats.”

  1. Could she be charged under 25-3518 for “maliciously treats”?

“Maliciously” is defined at 25-3502(10) as “intentional doing of a wrongful act without just cause or excuse, with an intent to inflict an injury or death.” Her intentional actions appear to have no just cause or excuse, unless, perhaps, she is training the dog to protect her or others from an assailant, but this is not the typical training seen for bite/patrol dogs used by police departments. Can a person play tug-of-war with a dog, wrestle vigorously, or engage in reasonable, non-injurious discipline without it being a crime? Sure. Is punching a dog in the face for no reason similar? That’s up to a jury, but I think, again, her actions would not rise to the level of malicious, especially since it does not appear she intends to inflict injury (using boxing gloves vs. closed fists).”

Karp tells us that because one act does not state a crime under one statute does not mean it will not state a crime under an ordinance. Many events may be non-criminal but still morally turpitudinous, as here.
5-1-10: Cruelty To Animals


A. Acts Specified: It shall be unlawful for any person to act in a cruel manner to any animal within the City. The phrase "cruel manner" shall include, but is not limited to, the following specific acts and omissions:

1. Any owner of an animal who fails to provide such animal with:

a. Sufficient good and wholesome food; or
a. Sufficient good and wholesome food; or
c. Proper veterinary care to prevent suffering or disease; or
d. A clean and wholesome environment in which to live; or
e. Protection from the abuse of other persons.

2. Any person who, through act or omission, does any of following specific acts with an animal:

a. Abuses or otherwise mistreats; or
b. Tortures; or
c. Misuses; or
d. Overloads or overrides; or
e. Abandons; or
f. Exposes to unreasonable danger to health or life.

B. Penalties: Any person violating any provision of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or six (6) months in jail, or both. Each day such violation is committed or permitted to continue shall constitute a separate offense. It shall be the duty of any police officer, animal control officer or other designated City employee to take possession of any animal for which he has probable cause to believe falls under this section and deliver such animal to the humane shelter. All costs incurred for the maintenance of such animal will be paid by the person charged with the offense. (1952 Code § 6-07-02)

Idaho News 6 will continue to follow this story as it develops.