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Animal Cruelty Laws in Idaho

Cruelty to animals is illegal in Idaho, as it is across the United States. Idaho's animal protection laws are less comprehensive than in many other parts of the country, but they cover the basic forms of abuse and neglect. Below, we’ve summarized the most important laws that pet owners and animal lovers should know about.

What Is Animal Cruelty?

Under Idaho law, animal cruelty includes various forms of mistreatment, abuse, and neglect, including:

  • torturing pets
  • intentionally and maliciously inflicting pain, suffering, or injury on any animal
  • maliciously killing, wounding, or tormenting animals
  • beating animals cruelly
  • negligently or maliciously neglecting animals by not giving them needed food, water, or shelter
  • confining animals in unsanitary or inadequate facilities
  • carrying animals in or on a vehicle in a cruel way
  • abandoning animals, either intentionally or by allowing them to be in a building, enclosure, or public place without proper care and attention; and
  • poisoning someone else’s animal.

Animal cruelty is generally a misdemeanor, but some forms of abuse become a felony if the defendant had previous convictions. (Idaho Code §§ 25-3502, 25-3504, 25-3504A, 25-3505, 25-3511, 25-3518.)

The state allows—but doesn’t require—courts to take away convicted abusers’ ownership rights over the mistreated animals (Idaho Code § 25-3520A(4)).

Exceptions to Animal Cruelty

Idaho exempts several kinds of legal activity from its animal cruelty laws, including:

  • genuine scientific research conducted in recognized research facilities
  • accepted veterinary and animal husbandry practices
  • activities under fish and game laws, and
  • killing animals that have strayed from their owners’ property (or are wild predators) and are threatening people, farm animals, or property.

(Idaho Code §§ 25-3514, 25-3515.)

Organized Dogfighting and Cockfighting

It’s a felony in Idaho to participate in organized dogfighting, from owning or training the animals to promoting or organizing the fights. It’s a misdemeanor to be a spectator at a dogfight or during preparations for a fight. Participation in cockfighting is a generally a misdemeanor, but it bumps up to a felony if gambling or drugs are involved. (Idaho Code §§ 25-3506, 35-3507.)

Speaking With a Lawyer

If you’ve been accused of animal cruelty—or you’re worried about possible charges—it’s a good idea to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney experienced in this area should be able to explain:

  • details on relevant state laws
  • how local authorities tend to interpret those laws
  • ordinances in your local community that may apply to your situation
  • how you might recover your pet if authorities have already taken it, and
  • any defense you might have to criminal charges.

Other questions you might have for a lawyer include:

  • My neighbor keeps his dog chained up outside all day in the hot sun. The animal is clearly suffering. I’ve complained to the police and animal control officials, but no one will take any action. Would it be illegal for me to rescue the dog?
  • Could I be charged with animal cruelty if I don’t have the money for vet treatment that my cat needs?
  • A neighbor’s dog crawled under my fence and ate rat poison in my yard. Now the neighbor is threatening to press charges and sue me for poisoning the dog, because I should’ve known it could get in my yard. Can I be liable?
From Lawyers  By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor

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