MASON CITY, Iowa - The Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, in conjunction with the North Iowa Humane Society, hosted a discussion forum at Mason City brewery Saturday afternoon.
The goal? To change the way the state deals with animal welfare laws and puppy mills.
Animal cruelty is illegal, but the law is less comprehensive and weaker than comparable laws in other states. Iowa has the second worst cruelty laws in the country after Kentucky, according to a 2016 study done by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. And with the exception of 23 counties, puppy mills can be found all across the state, with one in nearly every county. Sioux and Lee counties have the most.
Mary LaHay, founder of the Iowa VCA and guest speaker at today's event, became interested in changing the laws about ten years ago.
"I was in the market for a puppy myself, and I accidentally stumbled upon a puppy mill. When I saw how bad the conditions were, I went in search of someone who might be able to help. I couldn't find anyone, so then we started this organization and we haven't looked back," LaHay says.
The organization has had a bill in the legislature since 2009, but it has been a very slow process to make headway. The biggest proposal, 2014's SF 2254, which would have provided better protections for the over 15,000 adult breeding dogs in the state, did not pass. But it may change soon.
SF 421, which seeks to clarify torture and minimum standards of care, and include the option of mental health evaluation and treatment to abusers, was introduced in March 2017 and passed through the subcommittee last week.
SF 454 aims to create more oversight of federally licensed breeders, ending renewals for those who violate the Animal Welfare Act, having the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardships (IDALS) inspect federal licensees in addition to state licensees, and provide funding and adjusting fee inequities.
These measures will not apply to livestock, nor to those who are small-scale breeders with less than three dogs. And any change go a long way for these furry friends.
"We can do better. And obviously, we have a long way to go," supporter Robert Eschrich says.
The Iowa VCA will be a part of Lobby Day 2018 at the Forte Conference Center in Des Moines on February 28th.