Iowa Lawmakers to Look at Proposed Changes to Animal Protection Laws

WARNING: Some of the images of neglected animals in the following video may be considered disturbing.

TIPTON, Iowa  --  Iowa lawmakers are trying to crack down on people charged with harming animals in the state.

According to the Animal Legal Defense League, Iowa ranks as one of the worst states in animal protection laws. The Senate will now consider a bill aimed at making punishments for animal abusers more harsh, as KWWL's Jalyn Souchek reports.

At Friends of the Animals Shelter in Tipton, whenever an animal needs medical attention they cover costs by dipping into what's called The Hope Fund. This time last year, Hope, a badly neglected and starved dog, was found dumped near the shelter covered in feces. A fund was raised for her medical bills, but Hope died before she could be helped. Now, the fund helps other animals, and it's stories like Hope's that shelter workers say they see often.

"Way too many times. We have another one right now waiting for the court process. It just tears your heart out every time," said Jill Syring, president of Friends of the Animals.

And that it's proof the state is too lax when it comes to animal protection laws.

"Right now you get a slap on the hand and that's about it," said Syring.

A new bill introduced in the Senate--SF 2181--would try and change that, increasing penalties for animal neglect, abuse, and torture. It would also add new criminal charges. In cases like Hope's, it would create a new section under animal abandonment. Another new charge would be animal endangerment, like leaving a pet in a hot car.

Shelter employees say the bill is a good start.

"We'll take any improvements we can."

"Anything would help. It's a start. We get more jail time, then hopefully we'll see a reduction in it."

Under some of the bill, owning an animal would be prohibited for convicted offenders, and for some it could be at least 10 years before they could own another pet.

"Myself, I think it should be life that they couldn't have another one, especially in the severe cases like Hope, anybody that can do that to animal," said Syring.

If the bill passes, it would also give law or animal control officers the ability to rescue suffering animals from hot cars.