on Friday, October 25, 2019
Why do we need reform?
The laws protecting Iowa’s companion animals are abysmal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund currently ranks Iowa 48th in the country for companion animal protection laws. Why are our laws so bad? Under Iowa law, prosecutors have three options when charging defendants: neglect, abuse, and torture. However, almost no defendants are charged with anything tougher than neglect. This is because of how the laws are written.
To start, torture requires a prosecutor to prove the defendant had a “depraved or sadistic intent.”(See Iowa Code § 717B.3A). Lawyers and judges in large part have no idea what this means because it appears nowhere else in the law. In 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals held that beating a puppy to death with a baseball bat failed to qualify as “depraved or sadistic.” (See State v. Meerdink, 837 N.W.2d 681 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013).
What about animal abuse?
Iowa’s abuse statute has an “owner exception”, meaning that under Iowa law an owner can’t be charged for abusing their own animal. (See Iowa Code § 717B.2). Most cases involve owners and their own animals, making this statute nearly useless.
As a result of this owner exception, people who commit horrific acts of violence are often punished with a nominal fine with no jail time. Given that animal abusers almost always return to abusing animals, Iowa offers nearly no protection for companion animals.
What should YOU do?
Tell your Iowa state senator to pass House File 737 (HF737) without amendment in the 2020 legislative session. Sign up for the ARL’s Humane Action Network at ARL-Iowa.org/HAN and we will send you notifications with a pre-written message when it’s time to make your voice heard.
HF737 would fix the problems explained above, enhance penalties for repeat offenders, improve definitions for all three charges and require offenders to receive a mental health evaluation.
In the 2019 session, HF737 passed out of the Iowa House 96-0 and passed out of committee in the Senate, meaning it is now eligible for a full vote in the Iowa Senate. The Senate could schedule a vote on Day 1 of the session next year, pass it, and send it to the governor’s desk right away. 1 See Iowa Code § 717B.3A. 2 See State v. Meerdink, 837 N.W.2d 681 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013). 3 See Iowa Code § 717B.2.
The only way to pass HF737 is to make our voices heard, and loudly. Call, email, write a letter, however you do it, make sure to share this message: PASS HF737 WITHOUT AMENDMENT