Iowa Secretary of Agriculture proposes new protection rules for animal shelters and stores

Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig recently proposed new rules for larger enclosures and increased access to water for companion animals in shelters, stores and breeding facilities.


Hannah Kinson

A puppy looks through the window of its kennel at Petland in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, proposed new rules that would improve living conditions for domestic animals.

Grace Culbertson, News Reporter

Iowa’s statewide call for bans on puppy mills, large commercial breeders, and even pet stores continues to be a topic of discussion for the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. After the veto of two large animal rights bills earlier this year, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig is now taking a small step toward improving animal welfare in Iowa.  

Naig introduced new administrative rules on Sept. 20 that aim to improve the welfare of companion animals in commercial dog breeding facilities, pet stores, animal shelters, and grooming and training facilities. 

The rules Naig introduced include stricter temperature regulations, solid resting surfaces, larger enclosures, strict cleaning and sanitation practices, increased access to water, and isolation areas to reduce the spread of disease. 

In a news release published by the Department of Agriculture, Naig said he hopes to improve Iowa’s animal protection.

Local animal advocacy organization Bailing Out Benji reports that Iowa is one of the worst states for animal protection laws, with over 290 puppy mills and no penalty for first-offense animal torture. 

The group’s executive director Mindi Callison believes these new rules will bring about change for large breeders and pet stores. 

“Stores such as Petland Iowa City and Pets Playhouse in Cedar Rapids will likely have to provide a solid place in each kennel for the puppies to lay on,” Callison said. “As it stands, many of the large breed puppies lay on the kennel floor, so their urine and feces can fall down more easily.”

Hannah Kinson
Two puppies sleep in their kennel at Petland in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, proposed new rules that would improve living conditions for domestic animals.

Since her appointment in March, Iowa Assistant State Veterinarian Katie Rumsey held several meetings with Naig, legislators, advocacy groups, commercial breeders, and animal inspectors. Rumsey said in a news release that all participants in these meetings agreed the administrative rules should be held to a high standard. 

Iowa City Petland owner Ron Solsrud said his store is one of the most regulated places to purchase animals. Solsrud added that he was surprised the new rules included animal shelters and that he is appreciative of Rumsey’s inclusion of all parties in the process of developing these regulations.

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“That news release to me is significant. I applaud Secretary Naig and Dr. Rumsey for picking up companion animals and addressing this significant issue,” Solsrud said. “I am overall very happy to have the Department of Agriculture get engaged in this way.”

Ally Carey, president of the University of Iowa’s student organization Promoting Animal Welfare in Society, said the new rules align with her organization’s efforts, and she hopes these rules will pass.

“These animals, they are never going to have the backyard my dog at my house has, so even just improving that living space a little bit is improving their quality of life,” Carey said. “It’s a step in the right direction.” 

The department proposed a similar bill regulating commercial dog breeding facilities. While this bill failed in the Senate, Rumsey hopes that including all animal companion facilities in these new bills will improve their chances.

The proposal must pass through a legislative panel review before facing public commentary. Iowa citizens will be able to read the proposed changes on Oct. 9 and provide their opinion until Oct. 29. If passed, the new rules will be implemented as early as January 2020. 

“On top of [the department] requesting these changes within their own organization, I think that the press release showed the public that many of these common-sense standards aren’t required as of now,” Callison said. “[The facilities] that are worried should look inward at their own program and ask if they are truly putting the welfare of animals first.”