Iowa Animal Abuse Laws

2012This picture became popular on facebook and everyone was outraged to see that Iowa was one of the worst states when it comes to laws protecting our companion animals. While it is a shocking fact, it has sadly been this way for many years.

When I spoke at ISU, I highlighted these laws and spoke about how they are a national disgrace (especially paired with the number of commercial dog breeders we have– around 250!). Now I want to highlight the laws that barely protect our companion animals. As an added bonus, I will add definitions and compare our laws side by side with the laws from one of the best states to be an animal, Illinois. Not only is it important for our laws to be accessible for everyone, but everyone should be able to understand them.

Animal Welfare  Definitions

Animal Abuse- 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

Animal Neglect- A person who impounds or confines an animal without adequate food, water or shelter.

Animal Torture- A person is guilty of animal torture  if the person inflicts upon the animal severe physical pain with a depraved or sadistic intent to cause prolonged suffering or death.

Aggravated Cruelty- A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when, (with no justifiable purpose),  the person intentionally kills or causes serious physical injury to the animal.

 Now to look at our laws compared to the laws from a far superior state!

Iowa’s Laws

Illinois’ Laws

Animal Neglecta fine from $65 to $625 and might have to spend thirty days in jail


Animal Neglect- would receive a fine up to $1500 and imprisonment for up to six months


Animal Abuse a fine from $500 to $5000 and up to two years in jail


Cruel treatment- of an animal would fine the guilty party up to $2500 and imprisonment for up to an entire year



Aggravated Cruelty- comes with a fine up to $25,000 and imprisonment from 3-5 years, as well as one year probation


Animal Torture- same penalty as mentioned before, and psychological treatment.


Animal Torture- would receive the same fine, imprisonment from 2-5 years, one year probation, and a mandatory psychiatric evaluation.


If you are an animal lover, you look at this comparison and shake your head. Iowa fails in comparison to other states. Especially since most of the criminals aren’t punished to the fullest extent of the law. They are let off with a “slap of the wrist” most of the time.  Why are we allowing these lax laws to remain while abused animals suffer? Sadly, there is one huge reason why Iowa is so behind the times… Agriculture… Farmers and other livestock owners have been instructed to vote against any “animal friendly” piece of legislation. (Places like Farm Bureau are actively against animal welfare organizations) This is why it is hard to get new laws passed. They think that laws protecting dogs will trickle down to laws protecting hogs. It is really sad.

Another downfall about living in an agriculture state is how farm dogs are treated. Think about it: How often do you drive down a country road and either have dogs chasing your car or see a sad dog chained to a dog house (far away from the actual house)? In most cases, the dogs are left outside during all types of extreme weather with little, to no, protection against the elements. In Iowa, there are over 47,000 dogs that are chained up outside of their homes. All of their owners have sentenced these dogs to a sad, dangerous life. There is no actual law in Iowa that protects dogs from these, however, each city/town can pass their own ordinance regarding chained dogs. I suggest that you call your local city hall and figure out if your city has any of those laws! Then be on the lookout for any animals that you can save. I will say that there is a law in Iowa that requires each pet guardian to give outdoor dogs sufficient housing, water and food. Sadly, “sufficient” is very subjective. Each sheriff (or animal control officer) has the ability to determine what is sufficient. When you get to the very small communities, the bare minimum is considered sufficient. I will say, however, that if you see any animal that doesn’t have food, water or shelter, you should call the authorities immediately! (I keep the local animal control number in my cell phone!)

If you honestly suspect animal neglect, according to  Iowa Code 717B.2, you should contact your local sheriff and ask them to perform a wellness check on the animal. Don’t leave it up to someone else. YOU  should be the one making the call!  If you are interested in learning more about what Iowa ignores, click here

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There are many organizations out there that are constantly working towards a brighter future for animals in Iowa. Please go to the following sites for more information: