Puppy beating sparks look at Iowa's animal cruelty laws - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Puppy beating sparks look at Iowa's animal cruelty laws


In light of a recent incident, in which a Quad Cities man allegedly beat a puppy to death after the dog urinated on the carpet, some people are taking closer look at Iowa's laws on animal cruelty.

Wednesday afternoon, a youthful pit bull scampered around the parking lot of the Dubuque Regional Humane Society.

The president and CEO there, Jane McCall, said the dog arrived just this week, courtesy of the Dubuque Police Department.

It was found in Dubuque, she said, "by the police, late at night, tied to a fence with a foot long rope. You can tell she had puppies."

She said the police took the dog to the veterinarian, who said the dog's owner likely, "kept the puppies and abandoned the mother."

Abandonment of cats and dogs is a simple misdemeanor in Iowa, punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 days of imprisonment.

Assistant Dubuque County attorney Alisha Stach said a charge of animal abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment, only applies in certain cases.

"Unfortunately, under that statute, you can only be charged with animal abuse if you are doing this to someone else's animal," she said.

When it comes to abusing one's own animal, Stach said, a charge of animal neglect comes with a softer sentence.

Animal neglect is not necessary just a matter of failing to provide adequate food, shelter and water for an animal.

"It also goes on to make it illegal to torture the animal or deprive it of necessary sustenance or mutilate the animal or beat the animal," Stach said.

A person convicted of animal neglect faces a simple misdemeanor.

However, as the animal neglect statute states, "A person who intentionally commits the offense of animal neglect which results in serious injury to or the death of an animal is guilty of a serious misdemeanor."

Instead of the aforementioned animal abandonment, abuse and neglect statutes, Stach also said prosecutors could charge a person with animal torture. A first conviction is an aggravated misdemeanor.

However, she said, it's difficult to prove that the alleged crime constitutes such a severe charge.

Usually, she said, prosecutors are most successfully able to convict a person of animal neglect.

"I think that the Legislature had the right penalty in mind on a lot of these things, they just created a lot of loopholes in the law that make it difficult for prosecutors to go after people for these kinds of cases," she said.

As for reported animal neglect or abuse, McCall said, "We see hundreds a year that we go and check on."

However, when it gets as bad a pressing criminal charges, Stach said, "most of the time in these cases, we simply find a dead animal, and it's difficult to prove what led to that animal's death."

She suggests reporting any signs of animal abuse.

"Don't be afraid to call. Don't put up with it," she said. "That animal does not have a voice for itself. That kind of situation cannot be tolerated, and a dog can't pick up the phone and call 911 on its own."

Both Stach and McCall said animal abuse can be a warning sign for other cruel behavior.

"One of the concerns in animal welfare is the human animal connection," McCall said. "If you, like, lose your temper and beat your dog to death, what about your other family members?"

Officials encourage anybody who witnesses animal neglect or abuse to call either the police or their local humane society.

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