Horse rescue group closes

Official says he will continue seeking tougher legislation

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A Hayden horse rescue organization shut its doors last month, due to lack of abused animals passed on to the group for care, former staff reported.

Panhandle Equine Rescue had only received two horses over the past two years that had been seized by law enforcement for improper treatment, said Tony Mangan, former president of the organization.

"We couldn't in clear conscience keep it going," he said. "How can I reach out to people who have reached out to us financially?"

But Mangan doesn't think there is a lack of animals being abused, he said, and he still intends to help in a different way.

Also a member of animal rights group Idaho One of Three, Mangan said he will continue pursuing a more stringent animal abuse law in Idaho. The new felony legislation passed this last legislative session lacks enough bite to prevent abuse, he said, so Idaho One of Three is regenerating efforts for a ballot initiative with more rigid regulations.

The group's attempt to do so this year failed, with only 38,000 of the 47,000 needed signatures collected to put an initiative on the ballot.

"Now we're more experienced. The people who signed and collected signatures are more experienced," said Mangan, a Spirit Lake resident. "I really am confident."

The group is dissatisfied with the new state law creating a felony penalty for animal cruelty on the third offense, he said. The law lacks mandatory sentencing for those who commit the felony, Mangan said, as well as adequate direction on when to seize an abused animal.

His group is also concerned with the provision that makes animal torture a felony on the third occurrence within 15 years.

"Felony for first time torture, with mandatory sentencing," Mangan said of the option he hopes to put on the ballot.

The group will start collecting signatures in June, he said.

Staff at the Idaho Secretary of State's Office confirmed that such an initiative can only be put on a ballot on even numbered years, so the next opportunity would be in 2014.

The group would have to collect signatures from 6 percent of the qualified electors statewide from the November 2012 general election.

Lt. Stu Miller with the Kootenai County Sheriffs Department said the department does still regularly seize animals in instances of abuse and neglect, but uses other resources in addition to PER to store and protect animals.

"I have seen fewer animals being seized, as far as horses," Miller acknowledged. "I think that quite a while ago when the economy kind of tanked, the big push was people couldn't afford it. Now those folks have either gotten rid of their horses, transferred ownership to somebody else or we've gotten into a plan where they're supporting horses by other means."

Miller said he doesn't think Idaho's new felony charge on the third offense for animal abuse is a strong enough deterrent.

"You have to go through the system two times before you get to the felony level," he said. "It kind of weakens the message, I think."

Angie Brainard, director of Second Chance Pet Rescue in Coeur d'Alene, said she also fears the new law doesn't go far enough.

"I don't think that's the best the law should be, a felony on the third offense. Why give these people the chance for two additional times to do it again?" she said, adding that she supports Mangan's efforts.

Mangan said he is keeping his PER email for those interested in the ballot initiative:

"For us, it's more than abuse of animals. It really is the fabric of our society," he said.

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