DES MOINES, Iowa -- In 2019, the animal cruelty bill, HF 737, passed out of the Iowa House of Representatives with a unanimous 96 votes, but it never made it to the floor for debate or vote in the Iowa Senate.
Now, legislators and advocates both say it is time to get it done. The bill would better define and clarify animal abuse, neglect and torture.
“Not only are we going to improve and clarify those definitions of the crimes themselves, we are going to enhance penalties and require mental health evaluations and treatment in certain circumstances. Those are really important because research on this spells out that animal abuse and animal torture are precursors to domestic violence and violence against other humans,” said Colin Grace, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa's director of legal and strategic initiatives.
Senator Tony Bisignano, (D) Des Moines, said there is a lot of bipartisan support for the bill, but other senators had some lingering concerns at the end of the last session.
“There are still people in the agricultural community that are uncomfortable because what they feel is it might be a creep into their practices. We’ve done everything we could to reassure them that wasn’t the intent of this bill and it’s not what this bill does. This is strictly domestic pets,” Bisignano said.
Senator Charles Schneider, (R) West Des Moines, said he thinks the bill didn’t make it to the floor due to unanswered questions.
“In the interim I know people have been reaching out to them and trying to get people comfortable about what it does and what it doesn’t do, and hopefully we’ve been able to make progress there. We may not have a unanimous vote on it, but I still want it to get called up for a vote regardless and would like to send it down to the governor soon,” Schneider said.
Bisignano said this type of reform is long overdue for the state.
“We are so out of step with the rest of the country that it’s time that Iowa shows that we are not going to tolerate it either,” Bisignano said.
As a dog owner, Schneider said this is an issue close to his heart and agrees it is time for a change.
“When an animal is abused, it’s important that someone who does that is held accountable for it and can be punished for it,” Schneider said.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa is ranked 48th for its animal protection laws.
If this bill is passed and signed into law, advocates and legislators said it would be a huge step for the state.