Animal abuse was addressed during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary committee. Senate Study Bill 1075 prohibits the treatment of animals other than livestock and wild animals, provides for the rescue of animals by local law enforcement agencies, provides criminal offenses and court orders and includes penalties.

Republican Senators Julian Garrett and Tom Shipley voted against the legislation, but everyone else supported the measure.

Republican Sen. Brad Zaun said Iowa is one of the worst states in regards to animal abuse. He stressed the title of the bill focuses on animals other than livestock and wild animals. It strengthens companion animal cruelty laws.

“We’ve had a lot of law enforcement agencies talk to us because they have trouble prosecuting these despicable acts because a lack of clarity and language,” Zaun said. “That’s what we’re intending to do with this bill.”

An amendment was produced with all the parties involved, including animal breeders. It removes the animal warden portion from the bill. Breeders agreed to accept the neglect language, Zaun said.

“I think this is a big, huge step in trying to protect our companion animals in the state of Iowa,” Zaun said. “I cannot thank the breeders and the people who were involved in regards to negotiating this enough.”

The senators returned to the bill after passing the amendment.

Garrett said he wanted to see a similar bill that is expected to come from the Agriculture committee. That’s why he voted no.

Democrat Sen. Tony Bisignano said the other bill is horrible and does nothing.

“But you’ll see that when you look at it,” he said. “This is a pretty big moment. This is a subject I’ve been working on since I came back to the Senate. Contention between the people who breed and those who farm and then those in urban Iowa with domestic companion animals — it’s just been a very difficult thing. Senator Zaun I can’t thank you enough for making the commitment to keeping it and the people who negotiated it. It would be a shame to lose this bill after all this work.

“Nobel Peace Prize to you. You deserve it because you brought people together who haven’t agreed nor worked together on anything in this area. I appreciate it.”

Bisignano said Iowa is 48th in the country regarding this issue. It will require mental evaluations for minors if they abuse animals. That is optional for adults.

Democrat Sen. Rob Taylor asked Zaun to clarify the definition of a wild animal. Wild dogs and timber cats in his rural area cause problems and Taylor wants to make sure farmers are covered if they have to protect their livestock.

Zaun called the bill “Francy’s Bill.” He told a story about a pet cat named Francy from when he was a child.

“Back then you didn’t really have laws — cats kind of roamed around that neighborhood,” Zaun said. “The cat came back…someone just tore off the tail of the cat. It was just a stub coming out of where the tail is. It was bloody as heck, it was just disgusting. I assume there were some people who did that. It wasn’t something the cat got himself involved in. That’s just something that happened to me when I was probably 10 years old.”

He also clarified that the Humane Society of the United States had nothing to do with the bill.

“This bill was born from local people,” Zaun said. “Full disclosure, I used to be on the Des Moines Animal Rescue League board of directors. We had a lot of conversations then. This is not an HSUS bill like some have accused me of.”

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall