Animal cruelty laws in the US state of Iowa are some of the weakest, ranking 48th out of 50 states. This abysmal ranking is partly because there are no felony charges for animal cruelty and no legal definition of basic standards for animal care.

Some lawmakers are pushing to change this, following horrific cases of animal abuse in the area, but will it be enough? One particular proposal, ‘House File 737’, was approved this month and aims to add a felony charge as a first offense in cases of animal torture. It will also remove ambiguous language from the legislation that makes it difficult for law enforcement to charge offenders with torture. It further gives judges the opportunity to demand a psychiatric evaluation for someone convicted of animal torture.

Recent animal cruelty cases included the discovery of four dead animals and three dozen starving dogs at a kennel in Pottawattamie County, and more than 150 animals seized at a puppy mill in North Iowa.

Mary Wolfe, a Democratic state representative said: “I’m not one to champion simply increasing criminal sanctions for no good reason, but in this case after spending a lot of time with our current (law) and talking to animal rights advocates, I would have to agree that our current criminal sanctions for animal neglect, abuse and torture are too low.”

Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann quoted studies showing a link between those who torture animals and then being violent against humans later in life. “If you’ve got the predisposition to torture a puppy or a kitten, you’re probably going to graduate to humans. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also (could stop) future attacks on people.”

A separate proposal that sought to target puppy mills in Iowa had not gained momentum and no action has been taken yet.
David Barritt, chief campaigner for Network for Animals (NFA) said: “Lowa needs animal protection laws that can hold people accountable for their actions with punishment. In this bill, it is not clear what the consequence is for someone convicted of animal torture.”

“We all need to stand up for what’s right! It’s only when action is taken that animal abuse can be mitigated. This is what we are persistently fighting for at NFA,” says Barritt.