Idaho is one of three states without a felony animal cruelty statute, but the livestock industry has so far rebuffed efforts to toughen the law. In 2010, a felony cruelty bill passed the Senate 34-1 but died in a House Committee.
Thursday, a bill sponsored by the Idaho Cattle Association and Idaho Wool Growers Association was introduced in the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Stan Boyd, a lobbyist representing the groups, said the bill would allow prosecutors to charge a felony should a person commit three misdemeanor offenses in 15 years. Cruelty is defined as intentional infliction of pain, physical suffering or death.
Lisa Kauffman, Idaho state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said her group has not yet seen the bill, which was introduced on a voice vote. Kauffman said she's concerned the measure may be too weak. The other two states without felony animal cruelty laws are North Dakota and South Dakota.
A hearing will be held later on the new bill.
Two other animal bills were also introduced by the panel Thursday, with hearings to be scheduled later.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jeff Siddoway, a Republican sheep rancher from Terreton, authored the bill that would make it easier for a rancher to kill wolves after an attack on his flock.
Siddoway began by declaring a conflict of interest, citing losses of $30,000 to $50,000 in the last three years to wolf kills of his sheep.
"This bill is a direct result of those losses," Siddoway said. He said the $100,000 available to compensate ranchers paid 32 cents on the dollar for claims last year because claims exceeded the fund's ability to pay.
Siddoway's bill would give ranchers 36 hours to hunt wolves after a livestock kill.
"You can basically go after them by any means available," Siddoway said. "And when I say 'get 'em' I mean kill 'em."
The bill would allow aerial hunting, use of any weapon, including artificial light night scopes on rifles. Live bait also would be permitted to lure wolves to traps. In Siddoway's case, the bait would be several of his sheep, corralled behind a temporary fence. Others might use dogs as bait, he said.
"It's not a cruelty deal, so I hope we don't get drug into that," Siddoway joked. "You'd what to keep that dog nice and fat and happy so he would bark and draw those wolves in."
Siddoway said finding and killing wolves is no easy thing. "I've been hunting wolves very hard for three years and I haven't got one. I haven't even seen one."
The third measure, by Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, would define a dangerous dog. The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but the House sought changes. Corder said he worked with the House in the interim.
Wyoma Clouss of the Idaho Dog Coalition supports the dangerous dog bill. "It defines them by their behavior, not by what they look like."