A much-debated and highly-revised measure to strengthen Idaho's animal cruelty law made its way through the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday morning.
"This bill is giving me a lot of heartburn and many sleepless nights," said Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs). "But I'm going to support the bill because I see more good things than bad. I'm sure some outside groups will come back and want more, but we'll have to fight those battles when they come."
Idaho's current animal cruelty law exempts production agriculture and makes a third conviction for animal cruelty a felony. But House Bill 524
makes a second conviction a felony and makes a first offense a felony if the alleged offender has been convicted of causing bodily injury to another person within the last 10 years.
"We strongly support this bill the way it's currently written," Bob Naerbout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen Association told the Senate committee. "But there wouldn't have been anybody from agriculture in support of the bill with its original language."
HB 524 removes language from the current Idaho statute that could be used against production agriculture but further refines the definition of animal torture and also requires a pre-sentencing psychological evaluation for people convicted of torturing a companion animal.
"Our job is provide the highest level of care for our animals," said Wyatt Prescott, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association. "Unfortunately there are groups in society that seek to put us out of business. So we stand guard, watching for new legislation. But ultimately, we support this bill. It's a nexus to prosecute animal offenders who commit extremely heinous acts. And we want to take a stand against true offenders."
And with that, the Senate Ag Committee voted unanimously to send the measure to the full Senate with a "do pass" recommendation. The bill has already passed through the Idaho House.