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Council could change Boise’s animal code: hot cars, pet stores, exotic animals


Boise’s city code could soon see some changes to protect man’s best friend. 

City Council Member TJ Thomson once again brought a proposal forward to rewrite Boise’s animal code with clearer definitions of animal cruelty, clarifications on the role of animal control officers and prohibits the sale of animals out of cardboard boxes in public. 

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Thomson first brought the proposed changes to the code before Boise City Council in mid-2019 after consulting with the Idaho Humane Society and other stakeholders, but it never moved past a work session. After some changes, his proposal is back and he is aiming for an April 6 public hearing on the changes. 

“It’s on us to do these types of actions and take these things forward and save our furry friends,” Thomson said in a Tuesday council work session. 

More clarity for pet owners, enforcement

The proposal also includes a “good Samaritan” clause. It would allow a bystander to break the window of a vehicle to rescue an overheating animal without risk of legal liability as long as they call 911 first, check that the car is locked and look for the owner. Leaving an animal in a hot car would count as an infraction, but if the animal suffers “great bodily harm or death” the offender would be charged with a misdemeanor. 

The changes would also allow owners to obtain pet licenses for multiple years at a time and require rabies vaccinations. Thomson’s proposed code also clarifies standards on barking dogs and simplifies the process for violations. 

The ordinance would also change the requirements to obtain the non-commercial kennel license required for anyone to have more than four dogs and five cats. In order to own that many animals, owners would have to get the permission of 75% of the property owners within 100 feet of their property. 

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Under the new changes, the owner can get the ongoing permission to renew the license by going door to door to gather signatures or the nearby neighbors can be contacted through the mail by the city. 

Shelters, like the Idaho Humane Society, would be permitted to capture stray cats, spay and neuter them and release them back into the environment if they aren’t claimed. Thomson said this is the healthiest way to treat them. 

“Cats get very sick very quickly when they get nervous in the shelter and within days they are sick and may have to be put down,” Thomson said. 

No more lions, tigers and bears

TJ Thomson
TJ Thomson. Courtesy City of Boise

The ordinance changes would ban pet stores from selling dogs and cats bred for commercial use, which Thomson calls “the puppy mill loophole.” Stores would be required to source their animals from shelters or non profit rescues. Thomson said there is currently not a pet store in Boise selling animals that meets these criteria. 

The animal code changes would not impact hunting and would not shut down private breeders, but the animals bred in those businesses could not be sold in pet stores. It would also include a more detailed definition of animal cruelty, which includes animal hoarding, exposing animals to extreme heat or cold, willfully poisoning animals and lack of sufficient food or water. 

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The code would also ban exotic animals from performing in circuses within city limits, including elephants, big cats and bears. 

“A bear on roller skates and an elephant with a headdress on its head is not something we need to see,” Thomson said. 

Positive feedback from council members

City Council Members praised Thomson and only offered a few slight wording changes. This includes a request from City Council President Elaine Clegg that signs warning residents of dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs by order of the city be different than typical “Beware of Dog” signs. 

City Council Member Lisa Sanchez also asked about the code section requiring owners keep cats inside. She said her cat, Murry, is an emotional support animal and legally allowed to be inside her apartment, but because she is worried about causing tensions with her landlord who doesn’t allow pets she hasn’t pushed the issue and he lives outside. Sanchez said the possibility she could get in trouble for Murry living outside gave her pause. 

In response, Thomson said the requirement for cats to live inside is a liability issue and the city would not actively enforce it. It’s to protect the city legally in situations like if a cat wanders onto private property and is killed by a dog. 

“It’s not that humane society is going out trying to find cats and bring them in,” Thomson said. “If someone calls and reports a cat, that’s when they come, but they’re not out trying to capture them.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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