Welfare & Advocacy
of Iowa enacted an anti-cruelty law in 1851, fifteen years before
Henry Bergh secured legislative consent for the incorporation
of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(ASPCA) in 1866.
Despite laws to prevent cruelty to animals, Bergh
and the ASPCA found it difficult to get convictions. That has
Cruelty to animals
is now a criminal offense throughout the United States. In a growing minority
of states, animal cruelty carries a penalty at the felony level.
The majority of states, however, consider animal cruelty as a
Currently in Iowa (this is the nutshell
version), cruelty to dogs or cats carries a felony penalty only
for the second offense.
to Get Help for an Animal
frustrating to know that an animal is in trouble and not be
able to get anyone to do anything about it. To make things
happen for animals, sometimes you have to spell things out
to the humans in charge more carefully than you would think.
Doing your homework carefully (e.g., gathering, documenting,
and organizing evidence—see
below) enhances the probability that you will be taken seriously.
Yourself with the Law
Laws are simply
one of the tools we can use in our efforts on behalf of animals.
Try not be intimidated by the formidable writing style and special
language peculiar to the law.
to city ordinances (laws enacted by city councils) and county
ordinances (laws enacted by county boards).
to Iowas State Constitution, state law (laws passed by the
state legislature), and state case law (decisions rendered by
the state court). The
State Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship delegates
most of its responsibility/authority to the local level.
at the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes (laws passed by Congress),
and federal case law (decisions rendered by federal courts).
Enforces the Law?
laws can be enforced by local or state police officers or sheriffs
Any citizen who witnesses cruelty can call the appropriate
authorities (based on where, geographically, the alleged cruelty
happened) to stop it.
Or after the event, can swear out a warrant
for criminal prosecution. Unfortunately
for the animals, there is no central place to call for help.
Start with the appropriate law enforcement agency (see below) and work from there.
Map data © 2018 Google
|The appropriate agency
varies with the combinations of:
the problem (e.g., within city limits vs county);
• If the problem is within the city limits of Iowa City
or Coralville, call the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption
Center; or the respective police department.
the problem is within another city’s limits, call the
respective police department.
will apply, but you can fall back on State code too. The investigating
officer will decide whether to file using city ordinances
or state code. This decision is often made on the basis of
seriousness and intent. State code penalties are more stringent
and are used in cases where individuals go out of their way
to break the law, or where the more heinous crime has been
• If the situation occurred outside city limits, call
the countys Sheriffs Department. State code applies.
the problem (e.g., “life or death emergency” vs “nuisance
Building Your Case
information about investigating animal cruelty is taken (with
permission) from The Handbook of Animal-related Laws in Iowa no longer published by the Iowa Federation of Humane Societies (IFHS).
are relatively few legal restraints concerning the treatment
of non-human animals. Pay
attention to your intuition. If you’ve seen animals being
treated in a way that troubles you, then chances are that the
animals in question are being exploited or abused.
Study all applicable
federal, state, and local laws and regulations that cover the
nature of animal exploitation that you plan to investigate.
Before you consider any action, evaluate the possible consequences
for you, the animal/s, and the alleged abuser.
or who is your focus?
is the nature of the exploitation that you want to investigate?
accessible to you is the person, facility, operation, property,
or program in question?
resources do you possess and how do they match up with those of
Is Your Goal?
Your desired outcome
might include one or more of the following:
prosecution for cruelty
of government funding
compliance or similar action by the target
of conditions and/or issues to public scrutiny or
gathering for legislative efforts and lobbying.
The stakes can be high
so expect organized and professional opposition from business
or government; well-funded defense and media efforts; a high caliber
of legal representation; and sheer governmental inertia.
Without careful consideration
of how best to achieve your goal, your efforts will likely go
Merely calling the press or the prosecutor or confronting
others with righteous indignation will not change the situation
and may damage future efforts.
Authorities will not
sympathize with you unless you have specific facts and complaints
which are recognized as violations of state or federal law, regulations,
or of operating procedures of the facility in question.
Your most important
and influential aids will be your documentation and your camera.
Record when, where, why, what, and how.
exactly occurred and to which animals?
did the problem occur (e.g., is this normal procedure, was
a new employee involved, etc.).
exactly did the alleged animal abuse take place?
exactly did the problem occur?
(in your opinion) did it occur, and why did it occur according
of events as they occur will limit variations in your interpretation
of what happened and greatly strengthen your position.
be documented and compared to the law or the regulations applicable
to the situation in question.
The test for admissibility
as evidence is: does the item/evidence accurately portray what
it purports to represent at the time it was taken?
evidence must accurately portray what it purports to represent
at the time the photograph was taken. Information
relating to the subject matter of the photograph, specifically
when and where it was taken should be recorded and reflected
in the photograph.
example, a photograph of an animal in a cage should include
a sign that indicates precisely which animal this is, where
the animal is, and the date and time the photograph was
up experts to assist in the investigation and follow-up
forms used to record someones words should include
the date, time, place, and persons present.
forms used to record someones words should include
the date, time, place, and persons present.
evidence should be signed by the interviewer and interviewee.
Corrections, deletions or additions should be initialed
by both the interviewer and interviewee.
document should have attached to it the information relating
to specifically where and when it was seized, and by whom. This is really important!
documents need to be certified as true and accurate copies
and must meet other requirements before they are admissible
face of private documents must not be altered, modified
or changed in any way. Photocopying a document is not altering
Within the Law!
If you violate
the law, regardless of your knowledge or intentions, you will
not be able to justify your actions by comparing them to the wrongs
being committed against animals.
few exceptions, our legal system does not recognize a difference
between taking an animal from its owner (even for the animals
benefit) and taking a stereo from its owner. If
you remove an animal from the possession of the owner without
permission, you are committing the criminal act of larceny.
the JCHS recognizes the injustice of treating other animals as
property, this organization does not advocate removing animals
as a legal alternative for dealing with animal abuse.
Like You Hit the Wall?
the appropriate authorities refuse to respond—to
a cruelty or neglect complaint (e.g., “Oh, it’s just a cat...,”
or “I don't know anything about animals...”) call your
local (city/county) prosecutors office to report the lack
of action by the appropriate authorities.
you still are not satisfied—approach
your mayor or head of the city council or chair of your county
board of supervisors. Or if youre a resident of the congressional
district in which the cruelty occurred, contact your representative
at the state level to convince him/her that future acts of cruelty
should be investigated.
if filth is also a problem, you may be able to get the county
health department involved on the basis of detriment to human
health). Sometimes more than one ordinance covers or refers to
a particular problem, so use them all. Call your department of human services and ask them to do a welfare check at a specific address.
power of the press—to
report the deliberate failure of local authorities to fulfill
their duties and its power to educate the public about the needs
and legal rights of animals should not be overlooked. If no law
exists in your jurisdiction to cover the situation in question,
contact with the media, legislature, or other sources may prove
If you have
any questions as to the appropriateness of any of your actions,
consult an attorney for guidance.
The University of Iowa Pre-Veterinary Club (a University-sanctioned academic student group), Center for Student Leadership
• provides exposure to veterinary medicine in current education, research, and veterinary practice:
• creates contacts, networks, and support between pre-veterinary students at the University of Iowa as well as those at other schools
• creates opportunities for extra-curricular and organizational experience activities in the field of veterinary medicine
• gives back to the community through various volunteer and service projects
Federation of Humane Societies (IFHS) • 515-262-9503.
This is the statewide umbrella group for local humane societies,
shelters, pounds. Tom Colvin is the president.
The University of Iowa American College of Veterinary Pharmacists (ACVP) (a University-sanctioned graduate & professional student group), Center for Student Leadership.
• provides opportunities for pharmacy students to explore a career path in veterinary pharmacy:
• demonstrates the need for more veterinary pharmacists
• the chapter partners with local animal shelters and animal hospitals to support programs related to veterinary cancer, diabetes, poison control, and animal safety
The University of Iowa Promoting Animal Welfare Society (PAWS a University-sanctioned service student group), Center for Student Involvement.
Dedicated to bettering the lives of animals in need, raising animal awareness in the community, volunteering for animal-related causes, and coordinating fundraisers for animals and organizations.
The University of Iowa Vegan Society Uiowa (Veg UI a University-sanctioned special-Interest student group), Center for Student Involvement. Join us no matter what your diet, lifestyle, or background is!
Turn In Poachers • 800-532-2020
work on better laws for
Humane Association (AHA)—founded
in 1877, this is the nations only national organization
dedicated to child and animal protection.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)—one
of the nations first organizations dedicated to animals
and children as victims of abuse.
Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)—the
countrys leading animal rights law organization. Over the
past 20 years, theyve won precedent-setting victories for
animals on every front; in research laboratories, on farms, in
the wild, and for companion animals.
Day Animal League (DDAL)—a
national, citizens lobbying organization formed to focus
attention on issues involving the humane treatment of animals
they established the first shelter in the USA for victims
of food animalproduction. Their New York and
California farm shelters rescue, rehabilitate, and provide
lifelong care for hundreds of animals rescued from factory
farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses
Society of the United States (HSUS)—founded
in 1954, HSUS envisions a world in which people satisfy the physical
and emotional needs of domestic animals; protect wild animals
and their environments; and change their relationships with other
animals, evolving from exploitation and harm to respect and compassion.
Chance for Animals (LCA)—in
the 1980s and 1990s, LCA has worked on virtually every animal
rights issue, including farming, fur and animals in entertainment.
Their primary focuses are vivisection, pet theft, fur, and circuses.
& Animals Forum (formerly Psychologists for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals—PSYETA)—works
with social scientists, mental health providers and other animal
protection organizations to reduce the suffering and exploitation
of both human and nonhuman animals.
award-winning, independent, networking source of timely
media coverage and resources for animals and their defenders.
Features the latest animal rights news, multimedia, calendar,
victories, thought-provoking and inspirational editorials,
graphic and compelling photography, and in-depth investigative
Animal Net (WAN)—is
the world’s largest network of animal protection societies
with consultative status at the UN and with over 2,500 affiliates
in more than 100 countries working to improve the status
and welfare of animals.
Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)—created
in 1981 through the merger of the World Federation for the Protection
of Animals, founded in 1953, and the International Society for
the Protection of Animals, founded in 1959, WSPA is the worlds
largest network of animal protection specialists.