Iowa’s Animals Deserve Better

Action alert from Iowa Voters for Companion Animals

Iowa’s two most pressing companion animal issues are weak cruelty laws and a lack of oversight of commercial dog breeding facilities. 

Companion Animal Cruelty Laws

Iowa’s companion animal cruelty laws are weak. They contain numerous ambiguities and loopholes that make it extremely 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. 

Citizens get frustrated as animal welfare concerns often seem to go unaddressed, law enforcement officers’ options are limited given current law, and even when individuals are charged, our laws often limit county attorneys’ ability to secure adequate sentences.

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

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

Animal cruelty is also linked to criminal acts such as domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. Recognizing this important connection, the FBI began tracking animal cruelty in their National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2016. With the proven link between violence to animals and violence to humans, this is as much a community safety issue as it is an animal welfare issue.

Fortunately, we can better protect Iowa’s animals and communities with commonsense improvements to current law by:

  • Allowing a first-offense felony charge for egregious animal cruelty; Iowa is only one of two states without such, Mississippi being the other
  • Removing the need to prove “depraved or sadistic intent” for an animal torture charge; the State of Iowa v Zachary Meerdink case clearly proves why this is needed
  • Clearly defining standards of care, such as “adequate shelter”
  • Removing the owner exemption from the charge of animal abuse
  • Barring offenders from owning or working with animals after conviction

Oversight of Commercial Dog Breeding Industry

Iowa has long been ranked as one of the worst states in the nation for the large number of irresponsible dog breeding facilities or puppy mills – operations who prioritize profit above animal welfare, resulting in inhumane conditions like those at White Fire Kennel.

Conditions within puppy mills include overcrowded, filthy kennels and a lack of adequate food, water, vet care, exercise, and socialization. The female dogs are bred at every cycle, considered little more than puppy producing machines while studies have proven that the puppies born in such conditions show higher rates of health and behavior issues.

Iowa currently has more than 200 federally and state licensed commercial dog breeding facilities. According to 2016 USDA data, 46 of those federally licensed kennels house more than 100 adult breeding dogs. In 2015, USDA data shows that more than 50% of federally licensed commercial dog breeders and dealers in Iowa were cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Unfortunately, the USDA has a history of renewing licenses, even to licensees who have repeatedly demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to remain compliant with the AWA and provide humane treatment. And recent decisions by the USDA, including redacting inspection reports; implementing announced inspections; and dramatically decreasing enforcement actions, have only decreased transparency and raised concerns.

As the USDA is failing in their oversight capacity, we need to take action to protect Iowa’s dogs and puppies.

We need state oversight of all commercial dog breeders in Iowa. 

No dog or puppy should need to be rescued from a licensed dog breeder. State laws and regulations need to be implemented to allow inspectors and law enforcement to proactively address animal welfare concerns before they escalate to what we saw at White Fire Kennel, with more than one hundred dogs needing to be rescued and rehabilitated by animal welfare organizations. And those who harm an animal need to be held accountable.

Iowa’s current rankings and lack of animal protection laws are not in-line with Iowa values. Fortunately, our legislators have the power to make a positive change.

And each Iowan has the power and responsibility to speak up.

 – Speak up if you see any act of animal cruelty.
 – Speak up if you suspect or discover a dog breeding kennel may not be appropriately caring for their dogs.
 – And speak up if you want to see Iowa’s animal protection laws improved.

Click here to alert Governor Kim Reynolds and legislators of these recent animal cruelty cases and encourage all to support positive legislation to better protect Iowa’s animals and communities in 2019.

NOTE: While we share everyone’s anger and frustration with the current state of animal welfare in Iowa, disrespectful or hateful messages to any lawmaker is counterproductive. Please be respectful to all elected officials, even if you may be of a different political party or have previously been on opposites sides of this or other political issues. We are all Iowans and can certainly find common ground in protecting our pets.

Most appreciatively, 

Haley Anderson
Executive Director
Iowa Voters for Companion Animals

Iowa Voters for Companion Animals
P.O. Box 13021
Des Moines, Iowa 50310


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2 Responses to Iowa’s Animals Deserve Better

  1. Danny Bynum says:

    Iowa is number two in the nation with a large number of puppy mills. We need continued pressure on our Governor to make necessary changes


  2. Anne Duncan says:

    Of course disrespectful or hateful messages to lawmakers are never a good idea and do far more harm than good. From a tactical point of view, they are downright dumb.

    However, there must be political reasons why Iowa’s animal-welfare laws are so much more awful than those of other states, and it’s legitimate to want to know just what those reasons are. I have my suspicions, but maybe they are wrong. I understand fully why organizations that work on this issue have to be tactful, and I think their tact is very wise. But surely there’s some commentor or blogger who can safely tell the truth.


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