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Idaho group against animal abuse calls for stronger animal cruelty laws

Facebook group 'Citizens of Idaho Against Domestic Animal Abuse' has grown to nearly 2,000 members. They are asking to make animal cruelty a first-offense felony.

BOISE, Idaho — The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Idaho No. 48 nationally for animal protection laws.

Idaho state law currently lists animal cruelty as a misdemeanor and it is punishable by felony after the third offense.

The felony provision was not added until 2012, according to Animal Law Practitioner Adam Karp.

"It was like pulling teeth just to get Idaho to felonize animal cruelty," Karp said. "Idaho is on the right track but needs to speed up."

Karp lives in Washington, where animal cruelty laws have made the first offense a felony since 1994. Now, a growing group of Idahoans are calling for the same legislation in the Gem State.

The group is called 'Citizens of Idaho Against Domestic Animal Abuse.' The community has grown to nearly 2,000 members, including Boise City Councilmember T.J. Thomson.

"I would reach out to [state lawmakers] I had seen voting against increasing the standards in the state of Idaho, and I just couldn't get their attention," Thomson said. "It's just not happening at the state level. The only way we can do it is at the local level."

Thomson responded by taking matters into his own hands. Closing out his third and final term, Thomson has rewritten the Boise City Code and its laws on animal cruelty.

"Boise is the first city in the United States where a good Samaritan can break a dog out of a hot car," Thomson said. "We got quite literally the gold standards here in Boise. Something that I hope will be replicated in other cities."

But the city can only enforce fines, according to Thomson. He hopes other cities follow Boise's lead - or even the state - in protecting domestic animals.

"We can just take [Boise code] and implement it at the statewide level," Thomson said. "All it’s going to do is protect or furry family members. And that's what it's about, it's about showing compassion. And this would be the next step."

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