The Iowa Senate passed a bill Wednesday to enhance criminal penalties for abuse and neglect of companion animals.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said the bill is the product of years of negotiations.
“I am sick and tired of hearing in the news on almost a daily or weekly basis of these cases where these companion animals are being abused,” Zaun said.
He emphasized that the bill is not meant to apply to livestock.
Iowa’s animal cruelty laws have been ranked as some of the weakest in the country, but efforts to change them have faced pushback from animal agriculture groups.
The Iowa House of Representatives passed an animal cruelty bill last year.
On Wednesday, the Senate amended it to remove the felony charge for a first animal torture offense. Instead, the bill imposes a mandatory sentencing minimum for that crime and allows for additional supervision of those offenders.
Colin Grace with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa said the bill is a huge step forward for companion animals in the state.
“It’s not everything we wanted, but whenever you go to the legislature you have to appreciate that sometimes you’re not going to get everything you want,” Grace said. “But it shouldn’t detract from the fact that this is a phenomenal achievement that’s going to do a lot of good things.”
Grace said the bill also strengthens the definition of animal neglect, putting into law a minimum standard of care that includes veterinary care and a warm, dry place to sleep.
The bill passed the Senate with a 44-3 vote. It now goes back to the House.
House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Thursday he still needs to get feedback from House Republicans on the changes made to the bill by the Senate.