The ARL has a full-time animal abuse intervention coordinator on staff who investigates animal abuse and cruelty situations across the state of Iowa. With the help of law enforcement, the ARL has improved the lives of hundreds of animals that were abused or living in neglectful situations.
The ARL works to educate the public on how to identify and report animal abuse and neglect. It is important for everyone to report animals in abusive or neglectful situations.
STEP 1. Evaluate the Situation
When helping animals in abuse or neglect situations, it is important to first know and understand what constitutes animal abuse, neglect or torture under Iowa law. People have different standards of care for their pets. While someone may not love and care for their pet like you do, it may not be an abuse situation. Ultimately, it will be up to law enforcement, prosecutors, veterinarians and a judge to determine if a particular case is animal abuse/neglect, but the following is a basic guideline by Iowa law.
Iowa law states that animals must have food, water, veterinary care and adequate shelter (dogs and cats only) provided to them. If you discover that an animal is not getting needed food, water, veterinary care or shelter, you should report it immediately.
Iowa law states that animal abuse is intentionally injuring, maiming, disfiguring or destroying an animal owned by another person, in any manner, including intentionally poisoning the animal.
If you are unsure if a situation is abuse or neglect, it is always best to report it to authorities or to the ARL to be sure. The ARL can help you assess the situation and report it to the proper law enforcement agency.
Animal abuse can be more immediately recognizable than neglect. If you see someone abusing an animal, you may have the impulse to run over and tell the person to stop. However, unless you know that confronting the person will change their behavior and not risk harm to yourself, don't do it. Instead take photographs or videotape if you can. This evidence will be invaluable to investigators.
In the case of children abusing an animal, the children's guardians may be unaware of the behavior. Additionally, animal abuse has been linked with other types of abuse in the home, for example, child abuse and domestic violence. It is better to contact authorities and let law enforcement investigate than to try to handle the situation yourself.
STEP 2. Report It
If you witness animal neglect or abuse, you should immediately report it to your local law enforcement agency. You may also report it to the ARL's cruelty intervention coordinator, who will follow up with authorities or intervene directly.
If you are worried about retaliation against you, tell the officer that you wish to remain anonymous. Be aware, however, that in some situations remaining anonymous can make it more difficult to prosecute the case.
A home visit by either law enforcement or the ARL will determine what needs to be done to alleviate an animal's suffering. Usually, neglect is caused by guardians not understanding their pets' needs. The majority of the ARL's staff time is spent explaining how to correctly care for pets. If a pet is seriously in need of medical care or obviously abused, the animal may be removed from the home and placed in protective care while an investigation is completed.
Do not attempt to remove a pet from a potentially abusive or neglectful environment yourself. This is illegal, and it doesn't stop the cycle of abuse. The person could get another pet and treat it in the same abusive manner. It's better to work with law enforcement to attempt to educate the person and/or possibly prosecute the person.
STEP 3. Help Prevent Abuse
The key to preventing animal abuse/neglect is education and strong anti-cruelty laws. Serious penalties can inhibit cruelty, and with the addition of counseling as a penalty; can help stop the incidents from being repeated.
You can help prevent animal cruelty by talking to others about what to do if they see animal abuse or neglect. You can also help them better understand how to humanely train and care for their pets.
When you see a neglected or abused animal, you can take action. Don't hesitate to help the helpless. You may be the only chance an animal has to end its suffering.
For more information, or to report animal cruelty, please call the ARL's Cruelty Intervention Coordinator at (515) 284-6905 or e-mail the Cruelty Intervention Coordinator. Your call could save a life.