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Politics & Government

Why Other Idaho Towns Haven't Passed Laws Like Ketchum’s New Pet Rescue Rule

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The Ketchum City Council this week passed an ordinance authorizing police to break into cars to rescue pets endangered by high temperatures. It may be the only city ordinance of its kind in Idaho. That could be because most law enforcement agencies don’t think it’s necessary.

Meridian Deputy Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea says even though his city doesn't have a specific ordinance on it, his officers have the authority to break into a car to rescue an overheated animal.

“We use it maybe once or twice a summer,” he says. “Usually if we have a dog in a hot car we try to contact the owner first, unless the dog is in distress then we will immediately break the window and retrieve the animal.”

Basterrachea says whether they find the owner first or break the window, Meridian police will cite people for animal cruelty for leaving dogs in hot cars. He says state law gives them the power to break into the vehicles. The Idaho State Police agree that Idaho’s animal cruelty laws give police authority to break into cars to save pets. 

“Any law enforcement officer or animal care and control officer……may take possession of the animal cruelly treated, and provide care for the same…” – Idaho Statute 25-3504

But the state’s animal cruelty laws don’t say anything about breaking into cars. Ketchum Police Chief Dave Kassner says his department has relied on the existing laws in the past, but adds that they aren’t specific enough.  

“We’ve removed dogs in the past, but there was always questions in peoples' minds,” Kassner says. “The new ordinance just kind of streamlines it and gives us a better procedure to handle this type of call.”

Kassner says he wanted a firmer legal ground for his department. Plus, he wanted to send the community a message that Ketchum police take animal welfare seriously.

He also says his officers don't break a car's windows; they have a tool to open the doors.

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