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The Laws Must Change!

Iowa Laws

There are two separate licensing requirements in Iowa.

  • USDA License: A commercial breeder who keeps five or more intact breeding females and who breeds and sells 25 or more puppies annually through a dealer or pet store must be USDA licensed and inspected. These breeders are governed by the federal Animal Welfare Act. The regulations in this law are sufficient for keeping an animal alive but they are absolutely not humane. As an example, cage-size requirements allow for dogs to be kept in cages just six inches longer than their length. And dogs live in these cages all day every day. Image a dog the size of a beagle living in a cage the size of a dishwasher.
  • State License: A commercial breeder in Iowa who keeps more than three breeding males or females and who sells direct to the public must be state licensed. These breeders are inspected by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).

The Problem

USDA-licensees in Iowa are not overseen by IDALS. Of the top four dog-producing states ours is the only one without state-level oversight. Without state oversight we are unable to impose stricter guidelines on this industry; guidelines which would ensure more humane treatment of the dogs in USDA-licensed facilities.Without state oversight we are unable to ensure that our state’s animal cruelty statute, 717B, is being enforced in these facilities.We’re working to change our commercial dog-breeding law so that USDA-licensees will also be overseen by IDALS.

Cage size

Current Iowa Law

The commercial dog-breeding industry in Iowa is governed by state law (Iowa Code chapter 162) and administrative rules implementing that chapter of the code (21 Iowa Administrative Code 67). The rules go into more detail and help explain  or augment the actual laws as they were passed by the state legislature. We’re working to make this law better; providing for more humane conditions for the dogs AND requiring that USDA-licensees also be licensed and inspected by the state.

Legislative Efforts

Getting a law passed isn’t easy. It’s especially difficult to get a law passed in Iowa that provides better protections for animals. Any animals. The agribusiness lobby is afraid any animal welfare laws will eventually trickle down and cause problems for the livestock industry. But our efforts are laser-focused on the puppy mill issue and we won’t let these agriculture concerns stop us.

The Iowa Legislature

Our legislature gathers every year for approximately 110 days starting the 2nd Monday in January. To learn more about the process of law-making, visit the Iowa Legislature website’s Resource tab. During the 2014 session of  the Iowa Legislature we lobbied in support of legislation which would provide better protections for the ~15,0000 adult breeding dogs in Iowa puppy mills. The bill number was SF2254. Keep reading to learn more about the bill and why it is needed.

Unfortunately the bill did not pass. In fact it never even made it to either the Senate or House floor for a vote. Very disappointing. But we’ll keep trying. And with your help, we will prevail… on behalf of the dogs!


Here are some reasons why we need this change to our law:

  • Iowa has the 2nd largest number of USDA-licensed dog-breeders in the nation yet we’re one of only 30% of states that do not also have state oversight. Of the top 4 states, we’re the only state that does not have state oversight.
  • The USDA is under no obligation to report instances of violations to our state’s animal cruelty statute 717B when they encounter them in these facilities. With state oversight we’ll be able to enforce our state’s laws when applicable. There have been numerous instances where our cruelty statute appears to have been violated yet the violator goes unpunished. Rather, the USDA simply helps them get out of business.
  • The intention is not to eliminate dog-breeding; rather it is to bring the standards in our state up to those standards currently in place elsewhere in the country. This is not only an animal-welfare issue; it is also a huge consumer protection issue. People all over the country have ended up with sick Iowa puppies. The changes proposed in this bill will help eliminate some of the conditions that contribute to this situation.

Be sure to visit our Take Action! page to learn how you can help us as we work to help the dogs. Thank you!