The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737)
- HF737 will increase penalties for animal abuse and neglect, making specific second offenses a class “D” felony
- Iowa currently has an owner exemption under animal abuse, barring the owner of a pet from being charged with animal abuse for abusing their own pet. HF737 removes this exemption.
- Current, ambiguous language under animal torture makes it possible for an individual to beat a pet to death and receive no criminal penalty. This is what happened in the case of Iowa v. Zachary Meerdink. HF737 corrects this language so individuals who torture a pet will be held appropriately accountable.
- Current, ambiguous language under animal neglect makes it difficult for law enforcement and prosecutors to take a proactive approach when animal welfare concerns arise. HF737 clarifies standard of care requirements for food, water, and shelter, and adds requirements for sanitary conditions, grooming, and veterinary care.
- Mental health issues often play a significant role in many cases of animal cruelty. HF737 requires mental health evaluations for juveniles and those charged with offenses punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor or class D felony.
Why is this bill important?
- Iowa is ranked 49th in the nation for our animal protection laws, according to Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2019 U.S. Animal Protection Laws State Rankings. This is not an accurate reflection of Iowa values.
- The link between animal cruelty and other crimes, including child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse is proven.
- A study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found animal abusers to be:
- Five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people
- Four times more likely to commit property crimes
- Three times more likely to have drug offenses
The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737) is as much about protecting our communities as it is about protecting pets.