This week, the Iowa Senate passed important legislation to protect our pets and other companion animals from abuse, neglect, and torture. I am proud to be a leading advocate for this bill, and I am thrilled that my Senate colleagues supported it.
We have all seen the stories on the news of horrible instances of animal abuse, neglect, and torture. These stories are not only sickening, but also there is a very real public safety concern that perpetrators of animal abuse often graduate to violent crimes against other people.
For several years, representatives of law enforcement and animal rights advocates have told legislators that Iowa’s laws are inadequate. There are situations where the poor construction of Iowa’s laws, particularly related to animal torture, allowed some of the worst offenders to escape justice. HF 737 addresses these concerns by re-writing the definitions of these crimes in a way that makes more sense. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency projects these changes will result in 17 more convictions for these crimes per year.
I know some advocates are disappointed the Senate amended the part of the bill relating to the penalty for animal torture, first offense, but I believe the bill is still an extremely important step forward for the protection of companion animals in Iowa. The Senate amendment makes animal torture, first offense, an aggravated misdemeanor that carries a mandatory jail sentence with enhanced monitoring by the Department of Corrections upon release. My preference was to keep the language passed by the House of Representatives that made this crime a felony. I understand that Iowa is one of only two states where animal torture, first offense, is not a felony. I was able to support the bill with this amendment because of the mandatory jail sentence for those convicted of the aggravated misdemeanor and because it makes several other significant improvements to the laws that protect companion animals.
As a dog owner, I am thrilled that the Senate passed this bill. I look forward to the House of Representatives adopting the Senate amendment and sending this bill to Governor Reynolds for her signature.
The Iowa General Assembly will consider literally hundreds of other bills and issues before it adjourns in the spring. Please reach me by email or social media to share your thoughts on things happening here at the capitol. I look forward to hearing what you think!