Tuesday afternoon, the House Agricultural Affairs Committee voted to send House Bill 111, concerning animal abuse, to the House floor.
The bill, sponsored by Lava Hot Springs Republican Rep. Ken Andrus—the committee's chairman—amends existing Idaho law to define animal torture as "the knowing and willful infliction of unjustifiable and extreme or prolonged pain with the intent to cause suffering," and to make a third offense of torturing a companion animal a felony. Andrus said companion animals were defined under current Idaho Code in such a way that clearly distinguishes them from livestock and production animals.
“In this case, we’re talking about only a companion animal because that’s where most of the torture occurs,” he said, adding that agricultural practices fall outside of his proposed law because they do not apply to companion animals.
According to Andrus, a number of animal rights groups have petitioned statewide to bypass the Legislature and allow the public to vote on measures that could make animal cruelty a felony on the first offense. These groups may not distinguish between companion animals and livestock, Andrus said. HB 111 is a preemptive measure that restricts felony penalties to those who torture companion animals, thus preserving agricultural practices for livestock that may be considered cruel to some.
“If we’ve done this, I can say, ‘Public, you don’t need to vote for an initiative; we have done this to protect animals and I think it’s a reasonable thing we’ve done,’” he said.
Andrus emphasized the need to exempt production animals from such a law to protect the Gem State’s widespread agricultural community from potential felony charges.
“If you think that I am here to carry water for animal rights groups, I am not," he said. "But they are a threat.”