Lawmakers in the Idaho Senate and House couldn’t agree on proposals to heighten animal cruelty laws and create statewide regulations for chicken and pig feeding operations. Both plans passed the Idaho Senate and stalled in the House. Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee chair Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, backed both pieces of legislation, which he says could return next year.
Corder said the key component of the changes to animal cruelty would be a redefinition of horses that would allow local police to investigate cases of abuse of horses.
The animal cruelty legislation would also criminalize cockfighting and define and penalize animal torture and neglect. It would also impose stiff misdemeanors on torturing or abandoning animals. Offenders could face a year in jail and a fine of $800-$9,000.
Corder said he will need to work with House lawmakers before coming back with a new proposal.
The House State Affairs Committee, led by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, held up the plan. “There were several problems in the bill, especially for livestock handlers,” he said. Loertscher said he told Corder he’d consider amending the plan, but ran out of time as the legislative session came to an end. “We were extremely busy the last part of the session.”
Among the problems in the plan, according to Loertscher, are provisions that would give the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and local law enforcement a share of the money collected from fines on people guilty of abusing animals. “I had a problem with the way they were distributing the fine money,” he said. “I personally don’t like providing an incentive for agencies to go out and look for work.” Loertscher said he agreed that fines for animal abuse should go up, but wanted to change what would be an incentive program to go after animal abusers.
Loertscher said the livestock industry raised objects to parts of the changes to state law that might require animals to be tagged with radio frequency ID tags. Many ranchers prefer branding their animals. Loertscher also said some objected to language that would label not providing adequate medical care for animals as abuse. “That’s way too broad of a term to use in the livestock industry,” he said.
Corder said another problem with the plan may have been the support it received from animal advocacy groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Corder also got legislation approved by the Senate but not the House that would create new statewide regulations for pig and poultry farms. He said without regulations, there could be patchwork management of chicken feeding operations, which could expand in Idaho.
Corder said Idaho could soon have 10 million chickens in feeding operation, due to new regulations approved by California voters that prevent confining chickens in that state. He said Idaho’s solution might be separating rules for poultry and swine feeding operations. He said objections from pork producers helped stall the plan this year.
Corder's proposed rules would clarify the number of pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, or hens that would make a small, medium, large, or extra large feeding operation and require operations to get permits with ISDA.