A new state law that took effect yesterday enhances the penalties for those caught abusing, neglecting or torturing pets.
The law makes it easier for prosecutors to pursue these cases. A person convicted of seriously injuring or killing a pet could be sentenced to up to two years in prison. A second offense would be a felony. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, said the penalties in the new law are reasonable “and will, in fact, provide law enforcement and judges with a better tool to both rehabilitate people convicted of these crimes and perhaps provide a little bit of deterrence.”
The new law defines animal abuse as intentionally or recklessly injuring or poisoning a pet. Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, led Senate debate of the bill last month.
“Countless times we hear stories in the media of just disgusting abuse of our companion animals that so many times are members of our families,” Zaun said.
Senator Tony Bisignano of Des Moines, a Democrat, said Iowa’s animal abuse penalties had been classified as the 49th weakest in the country before now.
“Iowa has a good animal cruelty bill, not the best, but a good one and I thank all of my colleagues on both sides who have had to compromise,” Bisignano said. “…There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what makes good legislation.”
Efforts to toughen penalties for animal abuse faltered over the past decade. Farm groups raised concerns that animal rights activists would use an updated law to target farmers. The new law applies to abuse, neglect and torture of “companion animals” and specifically excludes livestock and wild animals.