Iowa lawmakers consider harsher penalties for animal cruelty cases

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) Iowa lawmakers are taking steps to toughen the state's laws against animal cruelty. And some think recent high-profile abuse cases are the reason why the bills have bi-partisan support.

Most recently, authorities in Benton County are looking into social media photos and videos showing someone hurting a cat. Deputies say they believe this cat is back home with her owner tonight. Officials are still looking for the man accused of stealing the cat, Chad Toney.

The state legislature is considering four bills now that would mean harsher penalties for people accused of animal torture. Each one would make animal torture a felony, instead of a misdemeanor.

State Director for the Humane Society of the United States Preston Moore believes Senate File 57 has the best chance to become law. That bill just deals with harsher punishment for animal abusers.
Other bills include that, and go a little further.

"I think what this would do is increase the baseline sentence requirements and some of the bills in there they have things like required mental health screenings,” Moore said.

All bills have bi-partisan support. And Senate File 57 also started, and had unanimous approval, in the agriculture subcommittee.

"I think that's their way with making sure there are no unintended consequences for our farmers and that's something I'm okay with,” Moore said.

The bills are meant strictly for pets, known as companion animals, these bills don't impact livestock.

Moore said Iowans are more aware of pet abuse cases, due to social media. He referenced an animal rescue in Vinton last year. Authorities took in more than 800 animals from the home of Babs and Marshall Galkowski.

In this case Babs Galkowski faced and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

“Her charges, unfortunately, were animal neglect without injury or death and I think that's unfortunate because there were animals that died," Moore said.

The new bills would lead to more serious charges, in similar events. So Moore is hopeful at least one comes to law. He said the people demand it.

"Because everyone of the laws introduced would make Iowa a better place for animals

There has not been any active campaigns against these bills, even from agriculture groups. Moore says that could change as bills change, especially if the language would ever include animal breeders.