MUSCATINE, Iowa–After unanimously passing the house, senators in Des Moines approved House File 737, which expands penalties for abandoning, abusing, neglecting, or torturing a companion animal, 44-4.
If signed by Governor Kim Reynolds, the bill will increase penalties in each area. Animal abandonment now constitutes a serious misdemeanor, which then in creases to a serious misdemeanor if it causes injury to the animal and to an aggravated misdemeanor in cases serious injury or death to the animal. Animal abuse carries charges as a serious misdemeanor, which elevates to aggravated misdemeanor if it causes serious injury or death to the animal, and becomes a class D felony on a second offence for animal mistreatment. Animal neglect has become a simple misdemeanor, but becomes an aggravated misdemeanor if it causes serious injury or death to the animal, and a class D felony if the offender has a previous animal mistreatment conviction. Animal torture has upgraded to an aggravated misdemeanor and a class D felony for anyone with a previous animal mistreatment conviction.
Muscatine Senator Mark Lofgren, who voted in favor of the new legislation, shared that stricter penalties for pet mistreatment has come before the legislature frequently. “The companion animal proposed legislation, which has now passed both chambers, has been brought up many times during my tenure in the Iowa Senate over the past four years.” He added, “Almost every legislative forum in Muscatine and Scott Counties has included discussion on constituent concerns regarding companion animals.”
He considered the passage of the bill a move in the right direction. “It is a positive step towards ensuring individuals who abuse pets are held accountable while keeping our livestock producers from facing frivolous lawsuits,” he stated.”
Local animal advocates welcomed the legislation too. Muscatine City Council Member Peggy Gordon, who has volunteered with a dog rescue and helped bring the dog park to Muscatine, says that she and many throughout the county welcome the passage of the bill. After learning the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the largest non-profit animal shelter in the state, considered Iowa’s animal protection laws the 49th worst in the nation, she felt compelled to do something. “when you hear things like that, you can’t sit and not act,” she said.
Gordon attended Muscatine Community College’s spring legislative forums and spoke with Lofgren and others about strengthening animal protection laws. She also emailed legislators, urging them to seriously consider supporting such legislation. Seeing House File 737 passed left Gordon feeling encouraged that local legislators do pay attention to the people they represent. “I really appreciate Senator Lofgren’s support,” she shared. “We can reach out to elected officials and we need to.”