on Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Zac Brooks of Dallas County has pleaded guilty this past week to one count of animal neglect. Brooks has been ordered to pay a fine of $105 plus court fees, totaling $180.75.
Statement from Colin Grace, ARL Director of Legal and Legislative Initiatives:
“This lenient sentence disappoints us. In 2020, the Iowa legislature passed higher standards for companion animal care and harsher penalties for animal cruelty. It recognized the seriousness of animal cruelty as both a crime against defenseless animals and a precursor to other forms of domestic violence.”
UPDATE (2:12 p.m. 3/2/21)
It’s been confirmed today that Echo is now out of the care of Zac Brooks and has been returned to the breeder she came from.
UPDATE (1:34 p.m. 2/26/21)
Dallas County Attorney Chuck Sinnard has removed the restriction that prevented Zac Brooks from voluntarily relinquishing Echo to anyone prior to the disposition hearing scheduled for March 4.
Brooks will be returning Echo to the breeder he purchased her from, and the initial hearing for his animal neglect charge is set for March 23.
As we have been saying all along, We wanted to see Echo rehomed immediately – either voluntarily or under the provisions of the law – as well as a continued full investigation to determine further potential charges.
This isn’t over just because Echo’s outcome is now known. The criminal charges are still incredibly important because they allow the courts to both require mental health evaluations and the prevention of possessing future animals for a set period of time (commonly 2 years).
UPDATE (9:48 p.m. 2/23/21)
The Dallas County Attorney has confirmed he has taken the first steps to determine if Echo can be permanently removed from Zac Brooks’ home!
ORIGINAL POST (12:51 p.m. 2/23/21)
Thank you to everyone who has contacted us regarding the extremely disturbing video and eyewitness accounts about a dog named Echo who was allegedly abused in Waukee by her owner Zac Brooks. Our teams have been working on this report since we were notified over the weekend and continue to work on it today, but because we do not have law enforcement authority, we are limited in what we are able to do to directly intervene.
We share your concern not only for Echo’s prior treatment, but also for her future well-being and we have reached out to the Waukee Police Department to both offer our assistance in the investigation and offer to help care for and find new placement for Echo. We believe there is sufficient evidence in the video footage, what Brooks has reportedly admitted to, and eyewitness accounts that is enough to merit Echo being removed under the law, in addition to the charges that have already been filed. We would like to see Echo rehomed immediately – either voluntarily or under the provisions of the law – as well as a continued full investigation to determine further potential charges.
Bottom line, the ARL believes that if you’re going to treat a dog like that, you shouldn’t have it and from what we have seen on the video alone, this is not an individual that should have a dog. Period. We’d like to see Echo go to a home where she will be properly treated and properly trained so that her confidence can be rebuilt. What we saw in the videos was heartbreaking, but it’s what the videos don’t show that worries us the most.
On July 1, 2020, a new law went into effect to better protect Iowa’s companion animals. Our team, as well as our staff lobbyist, worked tirelessly to get this bill passed to provide law enforcement and county attorneys with everything they would need to hold animal abusers accountable and protect their animal victims from further suffering. These laws included stronger penalties for animal abusers, better definitions to assist law enforcement with filing charges, and mental health evaluations for abusers because of the proven link between those who hurt animals and those who hurt people.
In addition, local authorities can and should file a civil disposition petition (i.e. removal proceedings). Disposition proceedings are a civil matter. They are independent from, and do not require, criminal charges and the burden of proof for civil proceedings is lower than criminal proceedings. To remove an animal, the court only needs to find that more likely than not the animal has been neglected, abused, or tortured. If law enforcement believes there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support a criminal neglect charge, that evidence should be more than sufficient to file for removal.
THANK YOU to everyone who has raised their voices to help Echo, and especially to the neighbors who have bravely spoken out, provided videos, and contacted law enforcement to help this dog. There is more on this story to come today on ABC-5 and WHO-13 and we will continue to follow this investigation and look forward for a positive outcome for Echo. More soon …