Animal Cruelty Bill HF737: Signed into law!

posted on Monday, June 29, 2020 in News

Today Governor Reynolds signed HF737 into law, marking a huge victory for Iowa’s companion animals.

Governor Reynolds signing  HF737

A culmination of years of work, the new law makes many meaningful and long-overdue improvements to Iowa’s companion animal cruelty laws, recognizing the need to hold everyone to a higher standard of care, whether you’re a shelter/rescue, dealer, breeder or simply a pet owner.

Many thanks to everyone who emailed their lawmakers time and time again asking them to support HF737 and thank you to the lawmakers who supported this effort.

Today we’re celebrating this win for the animals!

Effective July 1, 2020, here’s what the new law does:

1. Clarifies Legal Definitions of Animal Cruelty Crimes. In Iowa, there are three levels of animal mistreatment charges: neglect, abuse, and torture. Each of these three levels had poor language and flimsy penalties that failed to properly address animal crimes.

  • Neglect. Under the old law, Iowa pet owners could only be charged if they failed to provide a sufficient quantity of food or water (the quality of food or water was not a factor). HF737 imposed more comprehensive minimum standards of care, including proper quality of food/water, veterinary care, sanitary living conditions, protection from the elements, and basic grooming to avoid undue pain and suffering.
  • Abuse. Under the old law, in order to charge “abuse” the defendant had to inflict injury on an animal owned by another person, i.e. the “owner exception.” HF737 removed that language so that owners could be charged for abusing their own animals.
  • Torture. Under the old law, the prosecutor had to prove the defendant acted with a “depraved or sadistic intent.” This baffling language presented a major impediment to torture prosecutions. HF737 removed that intent language.

2. Implements Mental Health Evaluations. Research demonstrates a clear link between animal cruelty and domestic violence. Timely mental health evaluations can curb future escalations of violence. For this reason, HF737 requires convicted animal abusers to undergo mental health evaluations and treatments wherever there is serious injury or death to an animal, or if the defendant is a minor.

3. Increases Penalties. HF737 increases penalties for most animal cruelty cases. Under the old law, animal cruelty typically resulted in minimal penalties. By raising penalties, Iowa law now recognizes animal cruelty crimes as truly serious. However, we do note that Iowa remains the only state in the country without a first-offense felony for animal torture. This will need to change.

Of course, there is plenty more work that needs to be done in order to better protect Iowa’s companion animals. With your help, we can continue to make animal welfare a priority for our lawmakers.