116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The problem of overreach in state government is not a new one in Iowa, but it has reached a new low with the filing of Senate Study Bill 1195, which would eliminate the rights of communities to regulate activities and enterprises involving animals within their jurisdictions. Its passage would rob local governments of their authority to regulate puppy mills and pet stores, fur farms, roadside exotic animal displays, backyard nuisances, horse carriage companies, the use of wild animals in circuses and other animal-related situations. The proponents of the bill are doing the bidding of out-of-state lobbying groups tied to some of the nation's cruelest industries and interests. Both profoundly anti-democratic and dangerous, this proposal contravenes the values Iowans have long demonstrated when it comes to animal welfare: compassion and common sense.
Here are a few of the local laws SSB 1195 would void:
1. Clinton enforces ordinances limiting the maximum number of horses per acre as a means of mitigating overcrowding and public nuisance issues.
2. Akron prohibits the use of horse carriages in certain areas of city parks to protect public safety.
3. Fairfield requires that fencing for cattle lots be 75-feet from neighboring properties.
4. Waterloo prohibits use of the bull hook, a metal spear used to force captive elephants to perform in circuses.
5. Story County requires more thorough and frequent inspections of puppy mills than the state requires.
There are other examples. Puppy-selling pet stores consistently fail to meet the Iowa Department of Agriculture's minimum standards of animal care. In response, several communities have prohibited the sale of puppies from puppy mills via local ordinance. SSB 1195 would overturn those laws.
In a similar vein, this draconian measure would prevent Iowa communities seeking to uphold public safety by regulating the presence of wildlife traffickers and exhibitors like those depicted in Netflix's Tiger King from doing so. SSB 1195 would also make it impossible for municipalities to regulate the presence and operation of fur farms in their midst, despite the extraordinary risk that these enterprises pose as incubators for COVID-19.
A cynical observer might associate the decision of Sen. Dan Zumbach to introduce SSB 1195 with the efforts that he and other officials have made to insulate factory farming and CAFOs in the state from meaningful regulation - indeed, discussion of a CAFO moratorium has been outright dismissed, and our state legislature has instead passed three overly broad 'ag gag” laws that punish journalists and cruelty investigators. Let's hope that is not the case, and let's take note of Mr. Zumbach's support for HF737, the animal cruelty code upgrade signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2020. That law was not ideal but it was a demonstrable improvement, and law enforcement and prosecutors throughout the state have already put it to good use to secure a measure of justice for abused, suffering and neglected animals.
Why then would a state legislature still coming to terms with its own responsibilities to promulgate and ensure high animal welfare standards across the board in Iowa get in the way of localities seeking to do the same thing? We should be able to agree that the advance of animal welfare is good for the state, and look with skepticism at attempts to strip away protections that have developed as a result of citizen and governmental concern at other levels of government.
That's why the legislature should reject Senate Study Bill 1195 in the sad event that it comes out of the Agriculture committee. It's a blunt and reckless attack on the autonomy of local governments, with serious implications for public safety, human health, animal welfare and democratic governance. It deserves to fail.
Preston Moore is Iowa director for the Humane Society of the United States.