Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota are the only states without felony animal cruelty penalties. Agriculture groups have long been wary of removing Idaho from that list, for fear any new law could be used by groups opposed to ranching or animal agriculture to fight these traditional activities.

The association's feedlot group says getting behind legislation now will help it control the outcome and show the public that cattle producers take pride in caring for their animals.

A phone call to the Idaho Cattle Association wasn't returned. But according to the newsletter, ``Members felt as though it was important for the ICA to take initiative on the matter so that the association can control the outcome of the bill.''

The association says the feeder council's vote will serve as a policy guide that will be taken up at the Idaho Cattle Association Annual Convention in Sun Valley in November.

The Idaho Humane Society, Stop Torturing Our Pets, and other animal welfare groups are now gathering signatures for a 2012 ballot initiative.


The animal welfare groups are working together under an umbrella group called Idaho 1 of 3.

Their initiative, on file with the Idaho Secretary of State's office, would define animal torture, increase misdemeanor fines to $400 for a first offense, up from a current $100 fine, and triple fines for a second offense to $600.

It would also make a third animal cruelty conviction within a 15-year period a felony, punishable by between six months and three years in prison and a $9,000 fine.

Jeff Rosenthal, Idaho Humane Society director, said Wednesday the Idaho Cattle Association council's vote was good news and likely reflects a common-sense, locally crafted approach to a long-unresolved issue.

``They're very much a major player in the state, and if that represents their collective stance, that's very encouraging,'' Rosenthal told The Associated Press.

The Idaho Farm Bureau has successfully helped scuttle previous efforts to make animal cruelty a felony in the Idaho Legislature. Its spokesman, John Thompson, said he's seen the results of the Idaho Cattle Association vote, but that his group hasn't taken up the matter itself.

``We'd want to see legislation, to fully assess it, before we come out for it or against it,'' Thompson told the AP. ``in the past, we've been leery about legislating in this area.''