Advocates push for tougher animal abuse laws in Iowa

Iowa is one of only two states that don’t prosecute people as felons for their first animal abuse offense.

DES MOINES, Iowa-- Iowa lawmakers are now getting back to work, and animal activists are pushing for lawmakers to strengthen the state's animal abuse laws.

Iowa is one of only two states that don't prosecute people as felons for their first animal abuse offense, according to the Humane Society of the United States Iowa Chapter.

A proposed new law would change that, increasing the penalties for animal abuse, animal neglect and animal torture. It would also improve the legal language for those offenses and require mental health evaluations for the worst offenses.

An example of some of these abusive cases was posted by the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Iowa. They say a woman beat her dog in front of an animal control officer, leaving it bruised with cuts. The dog recovered and the woman was charged with animal neglect. She spent only 30 days in jail.

"I'm really hoping that this does pass and they're able to put some tougher laws in place," says Patti McRae, executive director of the Quad City Animal Welfare Center. "I think that will really help our animal controls and police departments enforce those laws and have tougher penalties."

The bill previously passed unanimously in the Iowa House but it never received any debate time in the Senate.

In November 2019, President Donald Trump signed a bill that makes certain acts of animal cruelty a federal felony. News8 is waiting to hear back from the ARL on how this new law will affect Iowa.