Animal cruelty forum next week part of statewide initiative

Deal

When cases of animal neglect and cruelty dominate news headlines, it can be easy to assume the perpetrators will be arrested and serve a long jail sentence. However, in Iowa that’s not always the case. To better education the public on Iowa’s animal cruelty, neglect and torture laws, the Humane Society and Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown are teaming up to hold a public town hall meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Fisher Community Center.

Entitled “Turn compassion into action in your community” the event will allow people to voice their concerns and share insights into how Iowa can strengthen its animal welfare laws.

“Iowa ranks 49 out of 50 for its animal rights laws,” ARL of Marshalltown Executive Director Shelly Deal said. “We need as many people as possible to show up to this and learn how we as a society can change the laws. We need to keep after our legislators.”

Almost every animal abuse offense is classified as a simple misdemeanor. In terms of animal torture, the first conviction is classified as an aggravated misdemeanor. A second offense is a class “D” felony.

A presentation will be given by Preston Moore, who serves as the Iowa state director, state affairs for the Humane Society.

“I am holding a series of town hall events throughout Iowa to learn about animal-related issues people are facing every day. A majority of Iowans are unfortunately all too familiar with our state’s lax laws when it comes to animal neglect and cruelty (it seems like an almost daily occurrence these days to see headlines about animal neglect and cruelty), but sometimes more localized issues don’t get as much exposure,” Moore said in an email to the T-R. “As a result of these meetings I am now working with animal advocates throughout the state on local ordinances to address issues like breed specific legislation banning specific breeds of dogs, how long dogs can be tethered outside and whether or not spaying/neutering community cats and releasing them back to their outdoor homes is legal in those communities.”

Deal said she believes current Iowa code related to the treatment of animals is vague and does not not require harsh enough penalties for offenders.

“We get complaints that the ARL and police don’t do enough when they see a neglect case,” she said. “It’s not because we don’t want to — it’s because we have to abide by the laws. We don’t like the laws and we don’t make them. And it’s so hard to prove a neglect case in Iowa because the definitions are so vague and the penalty is a slap on the wrist. The animal abuse section only pertains to abuse caused by someone other than the owner … The law says an animal must have food, water and shelter, so being tied up on a one-foot chain in a dog house I would consider a terrible life for a dog, but it’s not illegal right now.”

Section 717B.2 states: “A person is guilty of animal abuse if the person intentionally injures, maims, disfigures or destroys an animal owned by another person, in any manner, including intentionally poisoning the animal.”

Deal said even after an animal is removed from the home, the violator can have access to adopting other pets. However, it is up to the discretion of animal welfare agencies whether or not to approve an adoption application if the person has a criminal record or history of the mistreatment of animals.

“I’m just one person. We need everybody on board. I work in animal welfare, but support of making changes needs to come from people who don’t work in animal care,” Deal said.

“After these meetings I then help those citizens find a path forward to address the issues they’re dealing with. In the end, these meetings are all about getting people engaged. You hear all the time about folks wanting to see issues addressed and these meetings help teach them how to address those issues — on local and state-wide levels,” Moore said.

To read the entire code related to the mistreatment of animals (excluding livestock and game), visit www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/ico/chapter/717B.pdf

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com