Every year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund releases a report that ranks the animal protection laws of all fifty states. Its newest report details that Illinois takes first place, followed by Oregon, Maine, and California. So where is Iowa in this ranking of states’ animal protection laws? Also near the top?
Not even close.
In fact, according to this report Iowa has some of the weakest animal protection laws. We’re ranked 49th out of 50. So what policies are (or aren’t) in place that have left Iowa so close to the bottom of the list? According to Lora Dunn, Interim Director and Senior Staff Attorney of the Criminal Justice Program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa needs to impose a felony penalty for animal neglect -- an offense that includes leaving animals without food, water, and veterinary care.
“We at the Animal Legal Defense Fund see, unfortunately, really egregious cases of animal neglect. Very often these are cases where animals are suffering the most amount of harm because they’re languishing for months – sometimes even years – in these conditions.”
For many, the need to protect animals from neglect and abuse is self-evident. Even for the unconvinced, though, Dunn points to fact that those who harm animals are five times more likely to harm humans as well.
“The FBI recently recognized that these are really heinous crimes, and these are important not only for the protection of animal victims but also human victims. The FBI recently started tracking animal crime in its own separate category within their tracking system. And that really signaled to everyone across the nation that these crimes do matter.”
So what can Iowa do to catch up to our neighbor to the east?
One reason Illinois ranks at the top of the list, says Dunn, is that convicted animal abusers are prohibited from owning another animal for a period of time determined by the nature and severity of their offense. Also, Illinois includes pets as well as humans in its protective orders against domestic violence.
“We’re very encouraged to see that the trend each year is going in the right direction toward more protection for animals. Again, it’s still very important for those who still care about animal protection and these issues to get involved and make your voices heard.”
To see some model animal protection laws as well as a break-down of the report’s top five and bottom five states (where Iowa falls), visit aldf.org.