Iowa’s Companion Animal Cruelty Laws

Iowa is currently ranked 48th in the nation for animal protection laws, according to Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2018 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report, while our neighbor, Illinois, has maintained the number one spot for the last eleven years.

Current companion animal cruelty laws, specifically 717B Injury to Animals Other Than Livestock, contain numerous loopholes and ambiguities that make it challenging for law enforcement and county attorneys to hold those who have harmed animals accountable and protect pets from offenders in the future. They also do little to deter first-time or repeat offenders and make it difficult to take a proactive approach to animal welfare issues.

Current code includes an owner exemption for animal abuse, the requirement to prove “depraved or sadistic intent” for animal torture, and no clear standards of care such as “adequate shelter.” The majority of offenses are also misdemeanor charges, with Iowa as one of only two states without a first offense felony charge for egregious animal cruelty, outside of animal fighting.

Given the proven link between animal cruelty and other crimes including child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse, improving Iowa’s companion animal cruelty laws is as much about protecting our communities as our pets.

A study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found animal abusers:

– Five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people
– Four times more likely to commit property crimes
– Three times more likely to have drug offenses

Click here to see 2019 bills addressing companion animal cruelty laws.

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