Lonely pooch waits for its forever home at the Humane Society. (Cody Finney/ The Arbiter)

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” — James D. Miles

Walking into the Humane Society it’s hard not to conjure up sounds of Sarah McLaughlin crooning as little “take me home” eyes gaze up at passersby and pleading paws reach through cage bars as if beckoning to come over and pet them. Standing among the hopeful little friends immediately makes someone wonder how anyone could ever hurt these creatures.

Few crimes are even comparably deplorable to animal abuse. Unfortunately, Idaho is one of only three states that still does not consider repeated cases of extreme animal abuse a felony. A grassroots organization, Idaho 1 of 3, is trying to change that. This group is working to collect the 60,000 signatures needed by April 30, 2012 in order to get an initiative strengthening animal cruelty laws put on the November 2012 ballot.

The initiative seeks to change Idaho Code by including a definition of torture, changing references for penalty classifications, increasing the fines for misdemeanor violations and adding felony penalties for third and subsequent violations and any violations, including the intentional torture of an animal.

Animals are intelligent, sensitive creatures that deserve to have their basic rights protected. Local dog day camp, Camp Bow-Wow, is one of the locations voters can go to sign the petition.

Jennifer Willett, manager at Camp Bow-Wow, works closely with dogs.

“I think in the future we’re really going to realize what a disservice we’ve done them and how intelligent they truly are,” Willett said. “We see emotions in these guys every day. We have dogs that will look at you and smile. We have dogs that if you tell them ‘no’ they will pout. They absolutely have feelings just like we do.”

The Idaho Humane Society is another big proponent of the campaign. Communication Outreach Coordinator for the Idaho Humane Society Hannah Parpart encourages voters to step up.

“We need (the voters’) support,” Parpart said. “We need them to take action. So whether that’s getting out there and getting their name on a ballot or taking a ballot around with them and gathering signatures, it’s something our legislatures that we voted in aren’t willing to act on. So people, if you care about animals you really need to make sure that you’re taking action to show your legislatures that it’s something that is important to you.”

Between classes, work (for many) and social lives, college students may struggle with how to find ways they can make a difference without overloading their schedules. Supporting this petition is one way animal-loving students can make a positive impact without working too much into their busy agendas.

“Cruelty, torture and other forms of negligence undermine the respect deserved by animals,” senior zoology and pre-vet double major Kyle DeYoung said. “Treatment of that nature is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. A felony penalty will hopefully result in greater deterrence of animal cruelty and establish Idaho as a state that prides itself in maintaining animal well-being.”

It’s time for Idahoans to make a difference for creatures who are not able to defend themselves. Supporting this petition does not mean throwing red paint on women in expensive fur coats. It does not entail sitting in a metal cage in front of meat packing plants painted in tiger stripes. It asks Idahoans to respect the basic rights of other living creatures enough to make a step toward progress. It’s time to take a stand and make Idaho a more humane home for all.

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