Idaho Felony Animal Cruelty Initiative (2012)

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The Idaho Felony Animal Cruelty Initiative did not make the November 2012 ballot in the state of Idaho as an initiated state statute. The measure would have made certain cases of animal cruelty a felony in the state. The initiative effort was headed by an umbrella group of multiple organizations called Idaho 1 of 3, the name most likely meaning that the state is one of three states that does not consider animal cruelty a felony. The group Stop Torturing Our Pets, which was founded by Virginia Hemingway, was also part of that group.[1]

According to reports, the details of the law would have included: defining the specifics of animal torture, increasing misdemeanor fines to $400 for a first offense, $600 for a second, and would make a third charge in a 15-year span a felony. The punishments for the third offense would be between six months and three years in prison and, at most, a $9,000 fine. Currently, for a first offense, the fine is $100, and $200 for a second offense.[2]



The following were supporters of the measure:

  • Jeff Rosenthal, director of the Idaho Humane Society, stated: "The vast majority of Idahoans want to see a felony animal cruelty law."[2]
  • Virginia Hemingway, founder of Stop Torturing Our Pets, revealed the main purpose of the petition: "The people we're really after are the repeat offenders."[2]
  • Hannah Parpart, communication outreach coordinator with the Idaho Humane Society, supported the proposal. She stated about animal cruelty: "Every single time we see a case of animal cruelty we see a lot of people saying what can we do what can we do."[3]
  • Debbie Blackwood, director of the Twin Falls Animal Shelter and a former animal control officer stated: "Idaho is a little bit of a safe haven. We attract those who would otherwise be afraid of a harsher penalty. We have not risen to the level of making sure we are protecting our animals like most of the rest of the United States."[4]
  • Tony Mangan, president of Panhandle Equine Rescue, Inc, was in favor of the measure, stating in a column: "In 2012, vote for those who care, starting with any legislator, sheriff or prosecutor, and of course the initiative you've put on the ballot, because getting the laws strengthened is only part of the problem. Getting them enforced and prosecuted is equally important."[5]
    • Mangan later wrote an editorial referencing the action that Legislature took to create and enact their version of an animal cruelty bill during 2012 legislative session. Mangan stated that the bill had "no teeth", stating: "In the spirit of not presenting a problem without offering what we think would be the perfect solution, we suggest that all citizens who wish to see positive change in our state's way of doing its business vote out everyone who is an incumbent and who signed onto the new Bill S1303, including the governor, and replace them with lawmakers who can recognize the will of the people, and confront the horrific animal abuse issue that is tearing at the very fabric of our society."[6]


  • Communication Outreach Coordinator for the Idaho Humane Society Hannah Parpart stated: “We need (the voters’) support. We need them to take action. So whether that’s getting out there and getting their name on a ballot or taking a ballot around with them and gathering signatures, it’s something our legislatures that we voted in aren’t willing to act on. So people, if you care about animals you really need to make sure that you’re taking action to show your legislatures that it’s something that is important to you.”[7]

Media endorsements

  • The Idaho Press Tribune supported the placement of the measure on the ballot, stating: "Animal cruelty is a serious issue. In addition to the hell it unleashes on animals, it poses a safety risk to humans because people who do horrible things to animals are documented to be more likely to do them to humans later on. Animal abusers should be punished harshly, and that’s really not happening now."[8]

Events, rallies and stories

  • Idaho resident Julie Lawson, in a story run by the Idaho Mountain Express, described an incident where she witnessed three horses allegedly starving on a farm. Lawson stated, "I'd never been political in my whole life until these horses came to me." Lawson later realized the minimal consequences of animal cruelty, according to her, categorizing them as a "slap on the wrist". Lawson claimed: "There's a huge difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. There's jail time."[9]

Legislative action

In response to the initiative that was filed with the state, The Idaho Cattle's Association pushed for legislative action 2012 session. The support of legislation, reports said, by the association allowed them to control the outcome of the bill. Any bill that would be supported by the association would also punish third time offenders of animal cruelty with a felony.[10]

On March 12, 2012, the legislative action came to fruition after the House Agricultural Committee reviewed and approved House Bill 650, sending it to the Idaho House for a vote. Then on March 15, 2012, the House passed the bill with a vote of 64 to 4, sending it to the Idaho State Senate.

According to reports, the measure would make animal cruelty a felony, but would have less strict penalties than the initiative.[11][12]

According to Virginia Hemingway, the main proponent of the initiative that was circulating: "This simply dilutes [the proposal] into almost being worthless. I talked with [Lava Springs Republican Rep. Ken] Andrus and he says that they will be combining both bills together but taking out the torture part."[13]

On the other hand, according to State Representative Thomas Loertscher: "In order to take out...objections and reach a compromise, which we feel we have done, and to incorporate the good parts of 650 into 1303, I ask that you support sending 1303 to general orders."[13]

On March 29, 2012, the Idaho State Senate voted to approve the measure by a tally of 24-11. Supporters of the ballot initiative still proceeded with their petition circulation since they did not agree with all provisions of the legislation, according to reports.[14]

Path to the ballot

Initiative supporters must have collected at least 47,432 valid signatures from registered voters by May 1, 2012 in order to place an initiated state statute on the ballot. This equaled to 6% of the qualified electors of the state at the time of the last general election. The measure's supporters did not submit signatures by the deadline.

See also

Additional reading