Dog Park

A dog is walked along a sidewalk near Fort Boise Park, Friday, April 9, 2021. A rewrite of Boise’s animal code received positive feedback from residents and animal advocates alike.

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BOISE — The city of Boise on Tuesday approved a sweeping rewrite of its animal code, which bans “puppy mills,” criminalizes leaving pets in hot cars and outlaws the use of animals in circus acts.

Councilman TJ Thomson said the changes create a “compassionate animal code in line with Boise’s kindhearted values.” The city council unanimously passed an ordinance that will repeal and replaced the current code. Thomson has been preparing the code overhaul for several years, with help from the Idaho Humane Society and Humane Society of the United States.

“The only way we will truly see positive change to the way our furry friends and exotic animal pals are treated is to invoke the change at the local level,” Thomson said.

The new code was widely supported during a public hearing last month. Local groups, such as the Idaho Capital City Kennel Club, and national organizations, including campaigns to outlaw puppy mills, testified in support of it.

On Tuesday, city council members congratulated Thomson for his work on the ordinance.

“There are many parts of this code that reflect not only good practices but truly the emerging best practices in standards of veterinary care, standards for animal cruelty, standards for how a moral, caring, loving and just society treats its non-human, living members,” said Councilman Patrick Bageant. “Congratulations to TJ. Also, congratulations to the animals of the city of Boise, who are now going to be living in a healthier, happier, better place for them.”

Thomson said officials from several cities in Idaho and multiple states have requested copies of the new code, to reference for their own animal code updates.

“I hope our neighboring cities in Ada County are listening because your citizens want these changes too,” Thomson said.

NEW CODE HIGHLIGHTS

A number of new provisions are meant to protect animals from cruelty. One such provision outlaws commercially bred animals, closing a so-called “puppy mill loophole” that allows dogs and cats to be sold in retail stores and public spaces. An exception allows buyers to pick up their new pets from the airport if they were transported here.

The code only allows the sale of dogs and cats in retail stores if the animal is obtained from an animal care and control agency, animal care facility, animal shelter or nonprofit rescue organization that does not breed dogs or cats or buy them from a commercial breeder. The code exempts breeders who engage in direct sales with consumers.

In 2019, Cabela’s in Boise banned the sale of puppies in its parking lot after a parvovirus outbreak. Thomson said the new provision works in conjunction with businesses such as Cabela’s — formerly a popular spot for dog breeders — so that dog-sale operations can’t move from a private parking lot to a public sidewalk, street or park.

The new code does not affect hunting rules or agriculture animals.

It does codify the Idaho Humane Society’s long-standing “return-to-field” practice regarding feral and outdoor cats. Return-to-field involves capturing free-roaming cats, sheltering them for a short period while they’re spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and ear-tipped for identification, then returning them to their original location, if they’re healthy.

The code also criminalizes confining an animal in an unattended vehicle and provides immunity to someone who intervenes when an animal is left unattended. Someone who leaves an animal in a vehicle in “conditions that a reasonable person would believe endangers the health, safety, or well-being of the animal due to heat, cold, or lack of adequate ventilation” can face a civil penalty or up to a misdemeanor charge if the animal suffers “great bodily harm” or death.

A “good Samaritan” clause gives immunity to someone who enters an unattended vehicle by force to free an animal, after “strict criteria,” including first calling the police, is met. Thirty states have such a law, Thomson said.

The new code also bans the use of animals such as elephants, bears and large cats in a circus or other similar venue. Boise is the third local government in Idaho, joining Ketchum and Blaine County, to outlaw the practice.

The new code takes effect June 1. To read it, visit bit.ly/3bncfSG.

Ryan Suppe is the Boise City Hall and Treasure Valley business reporter for the Idaho Press. Contact him at 208-344-2055 (ext. 3038). Follow him on Twitter @salsuppe.

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