History of Legislation

For decades, the ARL has worked to improve legal protections for Iowa's companion animals. From being a pioneer in the advocacy of spaying and neutering pets, to building on our experiences with large-scale abuse and neglect cases across the state, to continually working to improve Iowa's animal cruelty laws, our efforts go on.

With your help we can continue to improve the lives of the animals and people of Iowa. Below are just a few of the advancements we've accomplished together.

ARL's history of advocating for improved laws

Mandatory Spay/Neuter Law

2020: Companion Animal Cruelty Laws Improved

A six-year effort culminated in the passage of HF737, which built on the cruelty laws adopted 25 years earlier and improved the definitions regarding standards of care and provisions regarding mental health evaluations for animal abusers.  The law also introduced prohibitions on future possession of animals by people convicted of animal welfare offenses and enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.  The bill passed the House 97-0 and the Senate 44-4 and was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds on June 29, 2020.

Cruelty Prevention

2010: Puppy Mill Bill Passed

A statewide coalition came together to lead the effort to enable the state agriculture department. This agency, who was already charged with overseeing the welfare of dogs in state-licensed commercial breeding facilities, to also inspect federally licensed operations in Iowa on receipt of a complaint, something they were previously prevented from doing.  HF2280 passed the Iowa House 77-22 and the Senate 41-9 and was signed into law by Governor Chet Culver on March 9, 2010 at the ARL.

ARL Successfully Sues for Custody of Abused Dog

2008: Hybrid Cat Exception to Dangerous Wild Animal Law Defeated

A year after passing the ban on private ownership of dangerous wild animals, an effort to exempt hybrid cats from the law was defeated when the bill failed to advance in the senate.

Animal Torture a Felony

2007: Private Ownership of Dangerous Wild Animals Banned

After several years of periodic issues with wildlife such as bears, lions, tigers, and wolves being owned by private individuals as pets, a bill regulating the ownership of such animals was passed by the legislature and signed into law.

Beastiality Criminalized

2006: Effort to Classify Dogs as Livestock Defeated

In 2006, when the legislature quietly passed a bill that would change the laws regarding commercial dog breeding, in effect classifying dogs as livestock and potentially subject to more lenient neglect and cruelty laws, the ARL led the campaign to defeat the bill, ultimately prevailing when Iowa governor Tom Vilsack line-item vetoed the provision.

Felony Animal Fighting

2004: Felony Animal Fighting

In 2004, Iowa finally made animal fighting a felony, joining 47 other states in making those engaged in the horrifically cruel practice subject to such serious penalties.  The final vote on the bill was 48-0 in the Senate and 98-0 in the House.  SF2249 was signed into law on April 9, 2004 by Governor Tom Vilsack.

Dogs as Livestock Defeated

2001: Beastiality Criminalized

After a case in Waterloo revealed that engaging in sex acts involving an animal was not a crime in Iowa, the ARL successfully advocated for passage of a bill to criminalize the offense.

Private Ownership of Wild Animals Banned

2000: Animal Torture a Felony

In 2000, after a three-year effort inspired by two 18-year-olds who were convicted of killing 16 cats with baseball bats but received only minor misdemeanor penalties, the Iowa Legislature approved a bill making animal torture a felony, but unfortunately only on the second offense.

Hybrid Cat Exception Defeated

1997: ARL Wins Law Suit for Custody of Abused Dog

In 1997, the ARL successfully sued for custody of a dog, believed to be one of the first instances of such a case.  The dog in question was an injured German Shepherd mix named Sugarbear.  Sugarbear was the subject of a cruelty investigation, and her owner wouldn’t allow the ARL’s veterinarians to treat her for a gunshot wound and injured leg that needed amputation.  Eventually, the ARL gained custody, treated Sugarbear’s injuries and she was successfully adopted to a loving home.

Puppy Mill Bill Passed

1994: Animal Cruelty Laws Updated

In 1994 the ARL, along with others, were successful in updating Iowa’s animal cruelty laws for the first time in nearly 100 years.  While the bill made a distinction between livestock and other animals, the new law introduced provisions for minimum standards of care and included language providing for local jurisdictions to recover the costs of caring for neglected and abused animals.

Companion Animal Cruelty Laws Improved

1993: Mandatory Spay/Neuter Law

One of the early initiatives the ARL championed was a law mandating animals adopted from shelters be spayed or neutered.  The law was an effort to address the pet overpopulation issue by ensuring that animals adopted through shelters wouldn’t continue to contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.  To date, about 30 other states have enacted similar statutes