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The Iowa Legislature has passed a bill that will amend several of the state’s cruelty laws.

A number of confusing and problematic provisions were removed from the bill, but some questions still remain.  House File 737 will soon be sent to the governor; those who reside or participate in dog events in Iowa are encouraged to contact her to express your comments and concerns (scroll down for contact information).

Background and History:

When introduced in 2019 as House Study Bill 114, this bill contained several provisions of concern to AKC and other animal welfare groups.  We asked the sponsor and committee to make several amendments, including clarifying arbitrary restrictions on dewclaw removal and tail docking.  As originally written, it seemed that some breeders could perform these procedures, while others could not, and it did not specifically mention if veterinarians could perform these procedures or not.

AKC also expressed concerns on a provision that stated that if a person cannot afford veterinary care costs, they may transfer ownership of the dog to someone who can pay the veterinary care bills. We asked about cases where perhaps the owner may decide, in conjunction with their veterinarian, for humane and practical reasons (such as a senior dog with terminal cancer or another serious illness) to make the dog as comfortable as possible, but to forgo further extensive and expensive treatments. We wanted to ensure that these cases would not constitute mistreatment and the owner could continue to love and care for the dog for the remainder of its life.

As passed by the House and Senate in June 2020, House File 737 (as HSB 114 became known), the provisions mentioned above as well as several other sections were all removed from the bill, and AKC greatly appreciates that the legislature considered our concerns as well as those of local clubs on these issues.

Summary of House File 737:

The final version of House File 737, according to supporters, seeks primarily to provide further guidance on prosecution and punishment of animal cruelty.  The bill does not apply to those who are licensed as commercial breeders by the state (meaning under current law those who own 4 or more intact dogs and sell, exchange, or lease dogs in return for consideration), so long as the animal in question is part of the commercial breeder establishment and they are in compliance with current laws and regulations regarding the care of animals.

Questions have been raised on the new definition of “animal mistreatment”, which is defined as someone who “knowingly, intentionally or recklessly” causes injury.  AKC does not condone harmful actions and behavior towards animals, and we support that the bill includes behavior that is done knowingly and intentionally. 

The concern raised by the AKC and local Iowa clubs is that the word “recklessly” could potentially, depending on enforcement and interpretation, encompass those who are excellent, responsible, and humane dog owners when an unfortunate accident or injury occurs if they are not currently licensed as a commercial breeder.

No one wants to see an animal come to harm or injury, but it is an unfortunate reality that, just as with people, accidents can occur in sporting events or everyday activities despite taking appropriate precautions.  For example, a service or working dog, a dog participating in a safe, humane event, or even a dog with an exuberant spirit and high energy could in the course of an activity be scratched or injured through no fault of the owner.  As the definition of injury would now encompass any damage to skin or muscle, an owner could potentially be punished under this bill for these types of incidents.

What You Can Do:

House File 737 will soon be sent to the governor.  You may contact Governor Reynolds’ office in one of the following ways:

Phone: 515-281-5211
Online message (use the link to submit comments)

AKC Government Relations thanks the Iowa club members who have worked the past two years on this bill and continue to join AKC in communicating with Iowa lawmakers.  For more information on this bill, contact AKC GR at doglaw@akc.org.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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