Idaho cattlemen take a stance on animal cruelty law

Dec 2, 2011

After a year of consideration, members of the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA) passed a resolution that may have raised some eyebrows. The resolution called for legislation that would make a third offense of animal cruelty a felony, said Richard Savage, president of ICA.

“We’ve been told for two or three years that we’ve had a target on us, that animal welfare groups wanted to get some stricter legislation passed in Idaho. We knew we had their attention,” Savage said. “We want to be proactive and pass legislation that we get to have some say in, so they don’t have a reason to put something more burdensome on a ballot initiative.”

Animal welfare groups, working under an umbrella group called Idaho 1 of 3, are gathering signatures to put a ballot initiative to a vote in 2012. The ballot initiative would increase the penalties for first and second offenses of animal cruelty and makes the third offense in 15 years a felony.

Savage said the cattle men’s resolution was first proposed last year, and the 750 beef producers in the organization had a year to consider it, ask questions, make changes and address concerns. The resulting resolution passed unanimously in a 500-member vote at the annual convention in November. “People had been looking at it for a long time by convention,” Savage said.

The legislation outlined by the resolution is something the cattle producers are very comfortable with, he said. “It’s short, simple and to the point, just making it a felony when someone is convicted of abusing an animal a third time. It establishes that bar. You’re not going to be a chronic animal abuser in Idaho and get away with it. If you’re a bad player, something needs to be done.”

They’re hoping to get a bill before the state legislature after the first of the year.

Normal livestock industry practices like branding, castration and dehorning are currently exempt from Idaho’s animal cruelty laws, but the cattlemen are concerned that if the Humane Society of the United States and other heavily-funded animal rights organizations get involved, it could result in changes to the legislation that make it difficult for them to do their jobs.

Savage said cattlemen are as adamant—and in many ways more so—as anyone about making sure animals are treated right. “We feel very good about the cattlemen in Idaho. I think our product speaks for itself. We raise a tremendous product. It’s wanted worldwide. We take pride in the way we treat our animals and the way we treat all our natural resources. It’s a commitment we make. I’m talking to you from my mother’s kitchen table in the house that belonged to my grandparents.

I’m 52 and my first memory is of feeding a calf. My son is the fourth generation to be in this business. That doesn’t happen if you’re abusing your animals and resources.” — Maria Tussing, WLJ Correspondent