Pup paralyzed after brutal beating demonstrates urgency for Iowa to make animal torture a felony

By on July 21, 2020 with 31 Comments

Earlier this month, Drax, a four-month-old puppy, was rushed to an Iowa emergency room with what appeared to be intense pain and paralysis in his rear legs. Drax’s owner, Thomas Hand, had been seen by witnesses beating and throwing the pup around. When the veterinarians examined him, Drax appeared to have lost all sensation in his rear limbs and had several fractures. The dog, who is now in the care of a foster home, will likely need surgery to repair his legs and veterinarians are monitoring him for signs of feeling and sensation in his lower body.

Hand, who runs an online amphibian pet shop, was arrested and charged with animal abuse and torture under a new Iowa law signed by the governor just four days earlier. But unfortunately, Iowa prosecutors can only charge him with a misdemeanor for an act so violent as Hand’s was. That’s because Iowa is the only remaining state where torturing a dog or cat in a way resulting in serious injury or death is not an automatic felony.

While some lawmakers in Iowa did attempt to include felony level penalties in the new law, others, beholden to agricultural interests, stripped the language out of the bill.

Hand’s case should serve as a powerful example for these lawmakers on why they need to rethink that decision, not just to protect animals in the state, but also to protect Iowa’s residents.

It is a known fact by now that those who commit acts of abuse against animals often also commit violence against people. There appears to be some evidence of this in Hand’s case. On Valentine’s Day this year, he was placed under arrest for domestic abuse assault and faces a charge of child endangerment.

Iowans want their lawmakers to act to protect animal from such cruelty. In a Remington poll last December, 69 percent said they believe domestic animal torture should be a felony charge. Lawmakers in Congress and 49 states have already recognized that torturing animals is a serious crime, and should, in some circumstances, be dealt with as a felony.

We are grateful to Iowa lawmakers for upgrading their animal cruelty laws this year, but as this case reveals, it is simply not enough. Animals like Drax, who may never walk again, deserve a fuller measure of justice. It doesn’t do Iowa’s image, nor its citizens, any good for their state to stand as an outlier in the nation, as a place where those who commit the most horrendous acts against animals can still get away with a slap on the wrist.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    por favor necesitamos hacer algo para acabar con el abuso y el maltrato de los animalitos en todo el mundo no podemos seguir permitiendo que esto siga pasando qué clase de seres humanos somos

  2. felice ivy says:

    Of course this should be a felony!

  3. Michele OBrien says:

    I can never understand why someone who would beat a dog would even bother to get a dog or any other animal. Yes Iowa needs to change their laws and make them much tougher.

  4. Susan Heron- brown says:

    This man committed a horrific thing to beat a poor innocent dog and for no reason except in his crazy mind.He needs to be punished with a fine and jail time as animals feel the same pain as humans and this is just so evil to do this to a innocent animal
    This should be treated as a murder crime. Not a slap on the wrist.

  5. Cindy says:

    Thomas Hand and his wife are known scammers amongst reptile and amphibian enthusiasts. We’ve been trying to warn people for years! Just look up any reptile FBI group and search or ask about the Hands and you’ll see they sell sick and dying animals ALL the time! The proof is in those groups, pictures and texts with most of them.

  6. Ewa Urbanski says:

    Da müssen harte Strafen gegen die Täter verordnet werden.Sonst werden diese es immer weiter tun und die wehrlosen Lebewesen quälen.Es ist eine Straftat und soll so behandelt werden!!!!!

  7. Heather Elijah says:

    This man and his wife have been awful animal “breeders” over the years. They have sold sick animals, ripped people off by not sending animals, etc. They should be shut down and not allowed to have anything other than a pet rock. This is just the time he got caught. How many other animals has he abused? SHUT THEM DOWN

    • Brenda Hixenbaugh says:

      You are right, so what is it going to take before the legal system does the right thing? How many are going to have to endure the atrocities and death with these people? It’s unacceptable that something hasn’t been done. How many including this little thing? Drax should never have been with this abuser or any of his other victims. They at least should shut them down.

  8. Ann Contreras says:

    Please we need to make people pay for hurting or killing an animal. Law it might make a person think before they abuse or
    Kill an animal


    The need for laws punishing these crimes has long been obvious. Of course, cruelty to animals is a crime!!! It is a terrible shame to see how these brutalities pass and are not severely punished. It is about respect for life, just as it is about the life of a human being. Thus displaying his own frustrations and his own misery, it does not make any change in the human being, as ignorant as ever. In this path from mistake to mistake we will never be truly free, much less happy. Cruel people as it is in this case, manifests an ignorant human being, weak and full of terror; on such a wrong path, this lost human being believes that by venting his anger in such a cowardly way, he will heal himself of his misery. This madman has to be punished like any criminal, because his madness does NOT justify his crime.

  10. Elizabeth C. Stanton says:

    So sick of legislators who ignore what their constituents want and instead sell out to special interests. Maybe it’s time to boycott all things Iowa until they decide to join the rest of the USA, and make animal cruelty in all its forms a felony!

  11. Shiva says:

    There should be strong laws to punish any wicked person who abuse innocent poor animals.
    This cruelty should be stopped for once and all.
    Please do NOT give away your pets on Craigslist for free.
    Some wicked get animals for free to abuse them, sadly.
    Please keep up the good work of helping animals. Thanks

  12. Linda says:

    These people need to be banned from ever having animals. Iowa needs to step up for the protection from animal abuse although some politicians for making this a felony there are also some who are not. I don’t get it. Everyone should want something done against animal cruelty.

  13. Michael says:

    Thomas and Kate Hand are notorious in the reptile/amphibian community for running shady businesses that scam customers and that produces subpar animals. They have been grifting and scamming for years. They often send dead/dying animals to customers or they just take people’s money without ever producing animals. Not only are they scammers and animal abusers, they are just terrible, vile people. They bully, intimidate, and take advantage of others. The reptile community has been trying to warn authorities for years about this couple, but it has fallen on deaf ears. I hope now someone takes this seriously and finally takes action against them. I guarantee you that many, many animals have been harmed/killed by this couple well before this puppy and that if nothing is done, more animals will fall victim to them.

  14. Jeanette Beem says:

    Who do I contact in Iowa to get something done. Name and phone number please. This is awful that Iowa is the only state that issues this as a misdemeaner.

  15. Sur Drumhrller says:

    That’s hideous to beat a poor dog that bad. He is a beautiful animal. Iowa … update your animal welfare laws!
    Beating an animal is the signs of a now or future criminal who will kill.
    Wake up!

  16. Paz Torres says:

    I am outraged that violent people get away from doing this.

  17. Ann says:

    This man should pay a fine and have jail time!!! If this was a child, he would be convicted!!! Dogs and cats are no different!! They feel pain too! This should be a felony and more, like a child they can not defend themselves.

  18. Lee says:

    All animal abuser is coward, bully and mentally disturb. This cowardly monsters should not have any rights at all to own any animals and should be severs punishment with high fine, so they will not do it again.

  19. Janice dixon says:

    Iowa law must be changed.

    • M Leybra says:

      Doesn’t make sense that lawmakers beholden to agricultural interests, stripped the felony language out of the bill that didn’t even include agricultural animals.

  20. Ellie Collins says:

    This is a shame – pure and simple. Obviously this couple is known by many. Iowa – please look into these people. This ought to be simple enough for you to do.

  21. Diane M Smith says:

    Animal abuse is part of the cycle of violence that leads to child abuse, domestic violence…etc. It needs to be nipped in the bud by making it a felony and treating it like the crime it really is!

  22. Ana says:

    How can we help to pass stronger laws against monsters like Thomas Hand?
    Please Humane Society, give us concrete ways that we can help. Can we write letters? Send emails?
    Drax is such a cute puppy. He did not deserve this!

  23. Ruth says:

    Foul!!!..not only should should be a felony but people like this should not br allowed to have animals!!!this time they were caught…next time??

  24. Jerry Satriano says:

    I can’t believe that this person is not in jail 😡
    This is terrible these people need to be prosecuted and locked up!!!!
    Let’s stop this madness!!!

  25. Dominique A Castillo says:


  26. Aliesha Dean says:

    The fact that Thomas Hand is still allowed to keep animals and continue his frog business after this incident is absolutely disgusting.

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