The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737)

The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737)

The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737) strengthens and clarifies Iowa’s companion animal cruelty laws, specifically addressing the crimes of animal abuse, animal neglect, and animal torture under Iowa Code Chapter 717B Injury to Animals Other Than Livestock.

During the 2019 legislative session HF737 garnered bipartisan support passing the Iowa House of Representatives UNANIMOUSLY! This is the most support such a bill has ever received at the Iowa Capitol.

The Iowa Pet Alliance led the way on this bill, working with Reps. Ross Paustian (R-Walcott), Steve Holt (R-Denison), and Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) to get the bill introduced, through the House Judiciary Committee, and the full Iowa House of Representatives. IPA was the only organization registered in support of this bill during the committee process, and we are happy to report other organizations joined in support, particularly after the bill passed the House unanimously on March 28, 2019.

The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737)

  1. Iowa and Mississippi are the only two remaining states without a first offense felony penalty for egregious animal cruelty. HF737 will make animal torture a first offense class D felony.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Mental health issues often play a significant role in many cases of animal cruelty. HF737 requires mental health evaluations for juveniles and offenses punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor, class D felony, or class C felony.

Why is this bill important?

  1. Iowa is ranked 48th in the nation for our animal protection laws, according to Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2018 U.S. Animal Protection Laws State Rankings. This is not an accurate reflection of Iowa values.
  2. The link between animal cruelty and other crimes, including child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse is proven.
  3. A study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found animal abusers to be:
    1. Five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people
    2. Four times more likely to commit property crimes
    3. 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.

What needs to happen for the Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737) to become law in 2020?

The Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737) needs to be passed by the full Iowa Senate, without any amendments, to send it directly to Governor Reynolds to be signed into law.

Why is the 2020 legislative session critical?
The 2020 legislative session is the second year of Iowa’s 88th General Assembly. As the Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737) passed the full House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2019 legislative session, and is currently on the Senate calendar under unfinished business, it is eligible to be considered at any time by the Iowa Senate – unless leadership refers back to committee.

If the Senate amends HF737, the bill will not be sent directly to Governor Reynolds, but rather will be sent back to the House where it will face additional legislative hurdles.

Please join the Iowa Pet Alliance team to call upon Iowa’s state senators to pass the Community and Pet Protection Act (HF737), without any amendments, to better protect our communities and pets.