MASON CITY, Iowa – It’s a cause close to Sybil Soukup’s heart. As the Executive Director of the Humane Society of North Iowa, she dedicates her life to helping animals. But she sees what’s happening in her state.
“Just in the last few years there have been five pretty serious cases in Cerro Gordo County of animal neglect, torture or abuse,” Soukup said. “Each of those cases they have plea bargained too much lesser charge and got off with community service and a fine, no jail time.”
The report highlights that Iowa law doesn’t mandate citizens give up their animals if convicted of such crimes and among other issues, the report shows inadequate definitions of basic care. Sybil is working to keep the public informed.
“My role is to help educate the public on how to best protect our animals, livestock and domestic,” she said. “But a lot of the role is of the legislature, they have the power to change these laws for the better to protect our animal friends.”
Iowa legislators have considered the issue in the past, but nothing was done last year. One local representative says lawmakers don’t want to set a precedent for one type of animal.
“They see it as a slippery slope, if we start doing this for dogs then maybe they’ll go after farm animals and I don’t see it as that,” State Rep. Sharon Steckman said.
Steckman says she will be co-sponsoring a bill in the house asking for more control and oversight from the state for so called puppy mills. There’s also a bill in the senate to increase penalties for animal abuse.
“I think how we treat our animals can trickle down to how we treat each other,” Steckman said. “If we’re allowing animals to be mistreated and kept in cages where they never see the light of day and their feet are on wire cages all day long that sort of thing, it’s inhumane.”
Soukup is hoping some changes start happening soon, and it starts with the law.
“There’s a lot of precedence that’s been set previously on plea-bargaining and Alford pleas which are quite common these days and lesser sentences but it’s time to set a new precedence,” Soukup said.
Minnesota comes in at number 20 on the report, which you can find here: http://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Rankings-Report-2015.pdf.