The torture of an Idaho family's pet pony, which had to be euthanized to end its suffering, prompted animal advocates to offer a reward of about $30,000 on Friday for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Public outcry has mounted since authorities in the southern Idaho farming community of Rupert were called on Sunday after a neighbor found the Shetland pony, Patches, bloodied and barely alive.
According to Yahoonews...The pony, which was routinely tethered to a tree so children could pet him, was taken from the front yard overnight Saturday and dragged on a paved road by a car until his knees were shredded and body scored with drag marks, authorities said.
The animal also suffered broken bones, including in the face, but the Minidoka County Sheriff's Office said it was not clear whether those were inflicted separately.
The case has shocked Rupert, population 6,000, and galvanized animal advocates to press Idaho lawmakers to stiffen penalties for animal cruelty. Under state law, anyone accused of that offense faces a misdemeanor charge for the first two instances, and a possible felony for a third incident.
Lisa Kauffman, director of the Idaho office of the Humane Society of the United States, said failure by the state's Republican-led legislature to make it a first-offense felony has given leeway to abusers.
She said minimal punishment is partly to blame for the treatment of Patches, as well as an incident in northern Idaho in July in which a goat was nearly decapitated and another died from what police described as a "heinous" knife attack.
State Representative Ken Andrus, a Republican who chairs the Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee, said bids in recent years to gain support for legislation toughening animal cruelty penalties failed amid worries by ranchers, dairymen and others that practices such as branding livestock would be targeted.
Andrus, a rancher, said he has unsuccessfully sought to persuade fellow Republicans to take up a bill he crafted that would make it a felony to torture an animal.
He said he intends to float the measure, which exempts traditional livestock practices, during the next legislative session.
"I think this incident with the pony will bring a lot of leverage. What happened to Patches is a prime example of why we need it," Andrus said.