On June 30th, 2020, Governor Reynolds signed the HF737 Animal Cruelty Bill into law stating, "HF737 is a significant step forward for Iowa, a state that has long ranked as one of the worst in the nation for animal protection laws". This is a long-awaited bill that has been pushed for by Iowa's animal advocates for years. The law takes effect July 1st, 2020, The following information from the Humane Society of the United States' Iowa Director, Preston Moore, explains what HF737 becoming law means for Iowa's animals.
An improved definition of animal neglect: The previous versions of Iowa's animal cruelty laws stated animals must be provided with "adequate food, water, and shelter." The language was vague and was incredibly difficult for officers to enforce.
The new law is much more specific about what is and is not allowed. Iowa's pets will now be more easily rescued if they aren't given enough food or water. Animals must now be kept in sanitary conditions free from overcrowding or excessive waste. Animals' housing must now protect them from the elements and extreme weather. Animals must now be groomed to the extent that they aren't suffering or experiencing adverse health effects. And finally, animals must be provided with veterinary care to relieve them of injuries or illnesses.
An improved definition of animal abuse: Iowa's previous animal cruelty laws permitted the owner of an animal to maim or disfigure an animal. The law also allowed an animal's owner to give someone else permission to harm their animal.
HF737 changes that, removing the exemption and allowed law enforcement to charge someone with abuse if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflict injuries via force, violence, or poisoning... even if they own that animal.
An improved definition of animal torture:
Iowa's previous animal torture law was, again, incredibly difficult for prosecutors and law enforcement to enforce. The law required that prosecutors prove that someone acted with "depraved and sadistic intent" in order for an animal torture charge to stand.
HF737 changes that, simply stating that someone is guilty of animal torture if that person "intentionally or knowingly inflicts severe and prolonged or repeated physical pain that causes the animal's serious injury or death."
Improved definitions of animal abandonment: Iowa's previous animal abandonment law was vague and was often difficult to enforce. It also didn't allow for trap-neuter-return programs from a legal standpoint.
HF737 changes that and adds stricter legal penalties if an animal is abandoned and injured or dies in the process. It also creates an exemption to the law for TNR efforts.
Put into practice, this law will save lives. I cannot overstate how important all of these changes to Iowa's animal cruelty code are.
To be clear: this law is not perfect:
After several legislators who were opposed to any changes to Iowa's animal cruelty code threatened to stop the bill entirely, the bill was amended to remove an automatic felony charge for animal torture cases. Unfortunately, with the state of Mississippi likely to pass a new animal cruelty law in the next few weeks, Iowa might soon be the only state in the country that prosecutes animal torture as a misdemeanor.
CVHS will continue to work alongside those who push for change!
There is more work to do for Iowa's animals in the coming years and we are glad to be a part of the community that is so dedicated to changing things for the better!