February 18, 2009
Citizen Advocates Rally at Iowa Capitol Urging Lawmakers to Protect Animals
DES MOINES — Citizens from across Iowa gathered at the state capitol and met with their lawmakers Wednesday to urge them to pass legislation to protect animals, and to reject attempts to overturn Iowa's longstanding protections for mourning doves. The citizen lobbyists were participating in Humane Lobby Day, organized by The Humane Society of the United States.
At the event, Rep. Jim Lykam, D-85, received a Humane State Legislator Award for his sponsorship of a bill last year making it a felony to attend an animal fight. Spectators at dogfights and cockfights financially support the criminal activities through their paid admission fees and gambling wagers, and Lykam's legislation cracks down on the entire cast of characters involved in organized animal fighting.
"Iowa lawmakers have the opportunity to pass a strong slate of animal protection laws this session," said Carol Griglione, The HSUS' Iowa state director. "We urge the legislature to support these important reforms to crack down on puppy mills and protect pets from domestic violence and cruelty."
Iowans rallied to oppose S.F. 25, introduced by Sen. Dick Dearden, which would allow the shooting of mourning doves for the first time since 1918. Mourning doves have been protected in Iowa for more than 90 years, and bird advocates argue that there's no reason to change that longstanding policy. Doves are not overpopulated, they do not cause nuisance problems and they are so small that they yield only a tiny piece of meat on their bodies — they would be shot primarily for target practice.
Similar legislation narrowly passed in 2001, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack. Polls show that Iowa voters oppose dove hunting by a two-to-one margin.
Lobby Day participants showed their support for H.F. 30/S.F. 69, legislation that would allow the state to inspect USDA-licensed dog breeders. This legislation was introduced to combat puppy mills, mass dog breeding facilities that keep animals in cages or kennels, often in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects some dog breeders under the federal Animal Welfare Act. However, many puppy mills are not regulated at all. The inspections that do take place don't deter cruelty and abuse, due to lax enforcement of animal welfare standards and only minor fines as penalties, and dogs continue to be treated like a cash crop.
Pet Protective Orders
Citizen advocates also urged their legislators to pass H.F. 32/S.F. 70, which would allow judges to issue pet protection orders in situations of domestic violence.
In domestic violence cases, family pets are often the first target because abusers understand and exploit the deep bond between pets and family members. Threatening the pet often causes the victim to stay for fear of what might happen to the animal if they leave. Studies have found that almost half of battered women delay their escape for that reason.
Current Iowa law allows a person to shoot a dog who is attacking a person or chasing or attacking a domestic animal. H.F. 33 would clarify this statute so that it would still be legal to shoot a dog who presents an immediate public danger, but would be considered animal cruelty under other circumstances.
Last year, state legislatures across the country passed 93 new laws for animals. The HSUS works with animal advocates and state legislators across the country to enact laws protecting animals from cruelty, combating animal fighting, halting wildlife abuse and more. Forty-one states are hosting Humane Lobby Days in February, March and April 2009.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.