Boise & Garden City

Boise city code on animals could soon change. What that means for your furry friends

Volunteers get high fives from cats at Boise shelter

Volunteers at Simply Cats in Boise are getting high-fives from their feline friends. It's part of the Cat Pawsitive Pro training program that helps cats become socialized and have a better chance of adoption.
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Volunteers at Simply Cats in Boise are getting high-fives from their feline friends. It's part of the Cat Pawsitive Pro training program that helps cats become socialized and have a better chance of adoption.

Boise Kind, a citywide initiative emphasizing kindness to others, has been great for Boise’s human residents, City Council Member TJ Thomson says. He thinks it’s time to extend that same kindness to animals.

Thomson is introducing amendments to Boise’s city code to require the humane treatment of all animals, from household pets to exotic circus animals.

If passed, the revamped city code could mean a little more money in pet owners’ pocketbooks. Thomson would lower the cost of licensing dogs in the city. He isn’t saying how much yet, though he estimates fee cuts would cost Boise about $75,000 per year. He would add a discount for people with financial hardships and waive licensing fees one month each year to encourage more people to obtain licenses.

A license for a spayed or neutered dog now costs $21.75. Dogs not spayed or neutered are $28.50 to license until they turn 1 year old, when the license costs $55. Seniors 65 or older with spayed or neutered dogs can get their dog licenses for $11.25. Thomson said only an estimated 14 percent of Boise dogs are licensed, which can be a problem for those who get separated from their families.

“Our budget is over half a billion dollars, so I think that’s a very small piece of that,” Thomson said Monday in an interview. “And the benefit for the animals is huge. When a dog is lost, it is so crucial to get it back to its loving family. Registering dogs is one of the best ways to do that.”

Other benefits for pet owners and their furry friends:

  • Changing how the city handles noncommercial kennel licenses, which are required for people who have more than four dogs and/or cats. Current standards require pet owners to get signatures from 75 percent of their neighbors. Thomson would send postcards to neighbors within a certain radius. Concerned neighbors could then reach out to the city.
  • Better defining what service animals are while still keeping the line clear on the difference between a service animal that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and emotional support pets.

  • Strengthening the cruelty to animals section of the city code to include “common sense” requirements such as sufficient food, water and shelter.
  • Creating a ‘Good Samaritan’ clause for people who enter into hot cars to save animals in distress.

Thomson also wants to introduce rules on circus animals, which he believes should not be allowed, and to end the sale of puppies in public spaces.

Other new rules would include a clearer definition of what it means to hoard animals, which Thomson said is abusive to those pets; and an end to what he called the “puppy mill industry loophole” by banning the sale of dogs and cats at retail pet stores.

He also wants to end the exploitation of circus animals, such as elephants.

“I say yes, the circus can come, but let’s leave the animals in the wild,” Thomson said. “The practice of training these animals is torturous to them. We don’t need to be entertained by an elephant on roller skates. We do need to do what’s right for exotic animals.”

Thomson aims to create a “gold standard” in animal welfare in the city of Boise. Some cities have standards on the treatment of animals, but cities in Idaho largely do not. Ketchum banned circus animals in 2014, with Blaine County following in 2015. Beyond that, few cities extend protections to animals because animals are seen as property.

Because the code amendments are still tentative, penalties for violating the potential requirements have not yet been ironed out.

The proposed changes have the support of the Idaho Humane Society, which helped Thomson by providing a lengthy list of things it considered valuable when it came to animal welfare.

“I think I would call it a start to what we want to see happen in Boise and throughout Ada County,”Jeff Rosenthal, the society’s CEO, said Monday in a phone interview.

The recommendations of the city’s staff do not go quite as far as Thomson’s proposals. Staff recommendations are to maintain the current licensing fees and consider a single month of amnesty for those without licenses.

The city staff also wants time to do a cost analysis of how much animal control services cost, and time to evaluate and report on the best practices for animal control licensing and funding.

The Boise City Council discussed Thomson’s proposal Tuesday. One concern of other council members was how much freedom to give “Good Samaritans” to rescue pets from hot cars. One question was whether people should be allowed to take pets out of cars and to veterinary hospitals for treatment.

There was also concern over what constitutes abuse of animals and what doesn’t. Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg asked: If a family cannot afford air conditioning, would they be accused of abuse if the pet gets hot? She said she opposes mistreatment of animals but doesn’t want the council to overreach.

Thomson said he will discuss the plans with the city’s legal department.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.