Letter to the editor: Legislation in support of companion animals

To the editor,

Animal cruelty bill HF737 was introduced to the Iowa Legislature during the 2019 session. HF737 had wide bipartisan support including passing 96-0 in the House and approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I would like to thank Rep. Jeff Kurtz (D-Fort Madison) and Rep. Joe Mitchell (R-Mt. Pleasant), a Democrat and a Republican, who both voted yes on HF737. Unfortunately, Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) did not support the bill. Taylor was one of two “no votes” when HF737 was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 2019 legislative session ended with HF737 placed on the calendar under unfinished business.

HF737 strengthens and clarifies current Iowa Code Chapter 717B Injury to Animals Other than Livestock. The bill does not impact livestock or any agricultural interest in Iowa but specifically focuses on the people who abuse, neglect or torture a pet … a companion animal with whom Iowans choose to share their homes.

In 2019 alone dozens of animal cruelty cases have been reported in Iowa. Consider just these very few examples compiled by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa:

May — two dozen severely sick cats found living in horrific conditions in a Des Moines house

June — 150 live cats and 200 dead cats found in Polk County. Conditions were so bad rescuers had to wear haz-mat gear to enter the home

June — 13 dogs rescued from an undersized muddy chain link run in Audubon County

July — two dogs found, one dead and the other extremely malnourished, without food or water in kennels in a Des Moines apartment

August — pet dog intentionally run over with vehicle by Northern Iowa man

September — Trina, a 14-year-old Labradoodle and Maz, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu, Bichon (both family pets) hacked to death with an ax

October — nine puppies, only days old, found abandoned in a plastic bag outside Libertyville

Iowa is one of only two states without a first offense felony penalty for egregious animal cruelty. (Mississippi is the other state). HF737 increases animal torture to a first offense felony penalty (as 48 states have already done) and also increases penalties for animal abuse and animal neglect. Surrounding agricultural states such as Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin have all implemented companion animal cruelty laws without adverse effect on the farming industry.

The 2020 Iowa Legislature Session begins January 13th. HF737 is considered “live” meaning it will be eligible to be considered by the Senate in this upcoming session.

If you are concerned about Iowa’s current embarrassingly inadequate laws for perpetrators of companion animal abuse, I urge you to contact Sen. Rich Taylor ASAP by calling him at 319-931-1568 or on the Senate switchboard at 515-281-3371 or by email at Tell Sen. Taylor you support HF737 and ask that he vote in favor of this legislation.

I also encourage you to follow what action Taylor takes on this legislation by following his voting record at Sen. Taylor’s seat will be up for election in 2020. Taylor has already served four terms, beating out his Republican challenger by only 168 votes in 2016.

Ellen Norman