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In the Animal Legal Defense Fund's 2018 annual ranking of states for animal protection laws, only Mississippi and Kentucky rate lower than Iowa.

Our state can and should do better.

One step in the right direction would be passage of a bill designed to increase the penalties for abuse of companion animals, like dogs and cats.

A bill debated, but not passed by the full Legislature last year included these provisions for protection of companion animals: 1) Strengthened penalties for mistreatment based on severity of injuries sustained. 2) Strengthened penalties for persons with previous convictions of animal abuse.

As reported by the The Journal's Des Moines bureau, the issue is under discussion at the Statehouse again this year. On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee held a hearing on a bill to increase penalties for abuse of companion animals. Under the legislation, a first-offense conviction resulting in serious injury of an animal would go from a misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor and a second-offense would become a felony.

We can't conceive of why any reasonable Iowan would oppose legislative action in some form aimed at getting tougher on those who abuse dogs and cats. To this end, we encourage lawmakers in both chambers to send a bill of this kind to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature this year.

Moving out of the lowest tier of states for protection of animals should be our goal in Iowa.

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Sioux City Journal, another Lee Enterprises publication, Jan. 31.

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