Iowa’s animal welfare laws are sorely lacking

A cat named Tommy sits in a chair at Animal Welfare Friends in Monticello in 2016 (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

Iowa’s animal welfare laws aren’t just too weak, they’re often not enforced.

Fines under state animal neglect law are “small, rare and may go unpaid,” Iowa Capital Dispatch investigative reporter Clark Kauffman recently reported as part of the report. of his continued coverage of animal welfare issues in Iowa. Over a two-year period, only three of Iowa’s nearly 300 licensed breeders were fined by state regulators, although the scope of the violations is likely much greater.

Meanwhile, workers and volunteers at animal rescue centers say they routinely encounter animals that have clearly suffered abuse from owners or came from inferior farms, but local authorities sometimes failed to see them. interest or resources to investigate.

This month, Marion police charged a local woman with neglect of animals after they found four dead cats and a severely malnourished cat in a seemingly unattended apartment. She faces five counts of misdemeanor. A federal case is pending against a Wayne County dog ​​breeder charged with more than 100 animal welfare violations.

Animal welfare advocates have long criticized Iowa’s sanctions and enforcement strategy as being too lax.

A 2020 law signed by Governor Kim Reynolds made significant changes to the code but didn’t go far enough. It has increased sentences in some cases and redefined offenses to potentially expand their scope, but Iowa remains the only state in the country without the possibility of indictment for a first-time felony of animal torture.

More significant updates to the law meet political resistance within the Iowa legislature. The Iowa Department of Agriculture is responsible for enforcing animal welfare in business circles such as ranchers, but the farm lobby opposes most measures that would strengthen the authority of the department, even if they do not target farm animals.

State Senator Roby Smith, R-Davenport, intervened this year in a local kennel case, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. After the kennel was ordered to suspend operations in the event of a violation, Smith apparently pulled the strings to have the suspension shortened and delayed.

“He was acting almost like he was my lawyer,” kennel operator Robert Burns said, according to Kauffman.

What we have here is an inadequate animal welfare system and the shortcomings are exploited by bad political actors. It’s time for Iowa to strengthen its laws.

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