Some Iowa lawmakers push a bad bill to benefit puppy mills, roadside zoos

By on March 2, 2021 with 7 Comments

A dangerous bill in Iowa threatens to undo decades of progress for animals in the state, including dogs suffering in puppy mills and wild animals in traveling exhibits.

The bill, SF 483, introduced by Sen. Dan Zumbach, ostensibly seeks to prevent cities and counties from enacting any local laws that could cause a “financial hardship” to an animal enterprise or a business that uses working animals. It is, in fact, a thinly veiled attempt to free those who profit from animals, like puppy mills, from any accountability, under local law, for how they treat the animals in their care.

In addition to prohibiting any new local laws, the bill seeks to overturn hundreds, maybe thousands, of commonsense city and county ordinances created by local lawmakers to protect working animals.

For instance, the bill would void ordinances in the cities of Stuart, Boone and Fraser, which prohibit the sales of puppies in pet stores as a way to end the exploitation of dogs in puppy mills. It would void an ordinance in the city of Waterloo that prohibits the use of the bull hook, a fireplace-poker-like device used to force captive elephants to perform in circuses. And it would nullify a law in Story County that requires more thorough and frequent inspections of puppy mills than the state requires.

Proponents of the bill hold out the falsehood that the law would protect Iowa’s agriculture industries. They also claim that operations like puppy mills are already “heavily regulated.” But most Iowans and Americans do not consider puppy mills, traveling wildlife shows and roadside zoos, which would all benefit from this bill, as agricultural enterprises. And far from being “heavily regulated,” puppy mills, which are notorious for mistreating the animals in their care while depriving them of the most basic necessities, are thriving in Iowa. The state consistently ranks near the top of our annual Horrible Hundred report of problem puppy mills in the United States.

Pet stores that source from puppy mills would also stand to benefit. We already know that puppy-selling pet stores have a terrible record in Iowa: of four stores that sell puppy mill puppies in the state, all but one have received multiple “non-compliant” inspection reports from state inspectors in the last year. Among these is Petland of Iowa City, which has repeatedly been cited for failing to provide solid resting surfaces for puppies in wire floor cages and packing too many puppies into small cages. Several puppy mills previously named in our Horrible Hundred reports have sold dogs to this Petland in recent years. Local ordinances are essential to keep stores like Petland from continuing to profit off puppy mills and from neglecting and mistreating the animals in their care.

Residents of the Hawkeye State want animals in operations like puppy mills and pet stores protected and have, in fact, repeatedly asked for stronger animal protection laws. A 2019 Remington Research Group poll showed that 69% of Iowans believe domestic animal torture should result in a felony charge. In 2020, state lawmakers passed such a bill and it was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, but not before it was amended and weakened. Despite the advances that came with the law, Iowa remains the only state in the country without an automatic felony charge for animal torture. Animal advocates in the state have also been lobbying for other progress, including ending breed-specific legislation, but these efforts have gained no traction.

SF 483 is now moving forward, and it is crucial we stop it in its tracks. The bill has passed the Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee with a vote of 8-4 and now awaits a full Senate vote. It has the support of such groups as AKC and the Cavalry Group—groups with a record of supporting puppy mills.

It is shameful that lawmakers who refuse to guarantee animals the most basic protections should now be raring to add to their troubles. Were this bill to become law, these lawmakers would not only set a dangerous precedent by gagging the citizens who voted for them, but they would further cement Iowa’s reputation as an outlier in a nation where legislators are increasingly passing laws to protect animals. If you live in Iowa, please call your state legislators immediately and ask them to vote against SF 483. It is high time these elected officials stop pandering to special interests and focus on what their voters would want them to do: protect animals, not throw them at the mercy of those who are already mistreating them.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Joni Armstrong says:

    Stop puppy mills and roadside zoos

  2. D'jamin Bartlett says:

    No you can’t make YOUR living on Animals Suffering. Enough.

  3. Silvia says:

    So sad, how these ppl don’t care for the well-being of animals they only want to profit from them and don’t even give them veterinary care o basic necessities. When will all this stop ? We have to speak up for the voiceless all animals should be treated with respect. These ppl should find other ways to work and to exploit animals .

  4. Dorian DaVita says:

    This is absolutely despicable

  5. Stephanie says:

    Vote no to SF 483

  6. Debra iannuzzi says:

    This cannot and should not be passed.,it is barbaric. Profit over humane treatment of animals only results in atrocities. Overburdening shelters, neglect of sick animals. Etc

  7. Catherine Armstrong says:

    I think this massive, brutal killing of our wildlife for sport is unnecessary and in this day and age should never be allowed. Bobcats are harmless to humans and this is extremley sad and shameful. I hope the killing of wolves and any wild animal is stopped and becomes a serious crime. Persons who “get off” with this brutality have something wrong with them and should be proscecuted to the fullest extent. States hopefully will adopt laws that put an end to these inhumane, barbaric activities!

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