Commentary: Idaho fails to punish animal abusers

On this one, Idaho can’t even look down its nose at Mississippi. On April 26, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour signed a felony animal cruelty bill into law — joining 46 other states.

But not Idaho.

It’s embarrassing that Idaho has failed to come up with a way to impose serious punishment on egregious, serial animal abusers. And it’s only appropriate, after years of frustration, that some Idahoans have decided to stop waiting on their elected politicians.

Animal welfare groups are banding together to push a voter initiative to create a felony animal cruelty law.

The initiative would increase misdemeanor fines: $400 for a first offense, up from $100; $600 for a second offense, up from $200. Like the new Mississippi law, the Idaho voter initiative targets repeat offenders. A third animal cruelty conviction within 15 years would be a felony, with a prison sentence of six months to three years and a fine of up to $9,000.

Said Jeff Rosenthal, director of the Idaho Humane Society, one of the groups supporting the initiative: “The vast majority of Idahoans want to see a felony animal cruelty law.”

The same could be said for the vast majority of the state Senate, which supported a felony animal cruelty bill in 2010 on a 34-1 vote. House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, an Iona farmer and rancher, held the bill, refusing to give it a hearing.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.idahostatesman.com.