Dog Rescue

(photo courtesy of Animal Rescue League of Iowa)

AUDUBON — Audubon County Attorney Sarah Jennings said under current Iowa law, there were no charges that could be filed in the case of the 13 dogs taken from an Exira residence.

Jennings has been working with the Exira City Clerk, Exira City Attorney and officials with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa to determine what would happen next in the case — for the 13 that were rescued and for two that remained on the property.

“With regard to the ‘Exira 13,’” Jennings said in a post on her Facebook page, “I had a conference call with Scott Wilson from the ARL — the Intervention Coordinator who actually handled the removal of the 13 dogs — and Dr. Cates, the ARL’s veterinarian who has been personally treating the dogs. The dogs are now at the ARL’s main shelter in Des Moines receiving much needed medical attention. I told them I wished to prosecute if possible, but I expressed concerns about the limits of Iowa’s animal neglect laws. Dr. Cates is familiar with the forensic aspects of veterinary medicine and is thus also all too familiar with the constraints of Iowa’s laws.”

Jennings said in the discussion, Dr. Cates “could not testify that (the dogs) had been deprived of food or water, and they were also found with adequate shelter. Those are the only three offenses in Iowa’s neglect statute for which I can charge.”

“The three of us concluded that I do not have a case for criminal animal neglect under Iowa’s laws,” she said. She encouraged readers to “take a good look at the photo that the ARL sent me of one of the 13 dogs — the one with a skin infection so bad that most of its fur is missing and its skin is bleeding with pockets of pus. This dog would’ve been in unbearable pain, not to mention having no protection from the elements without fur or healthy skin. Allowing a dog to reach this point is not a crime under Iowa law.”

While cases like this are both heartbreaking and frustrating, Jennings says Iowa’s animal neglect and abuse laws need to be changed.

“This case is heartbreaking but it should also infuriate us. When the legislature is back is session, let’s have the Exira 13 and the people of Audubon County be the tipping point that finally pushes the senate to make this long overdue change. Please don’t forget this case when the time comes to take action,” she said.

Some have resisted changes in the law because they were afraid it would affect farmers and livestock, but Jennings noted, “Iowa Code Chapter 717B is the section that governs animal abuse and neglect, and it specifically excludes livestock and game: “717B.1 Definitions.

As used in this chapter: 1. “Animal” means a nonhuman vertebrate. However, “animal” does not include any of the following: a. Livestock, as defined in section 717.1”

Others have wondered if this was a case of animal hoarding.

ARL officials said in a post, “This is not a hoarder and not a breeder. This was an individual that local officials intervened with and called shelters from Nebraska to Des Moines to ask for help. The ARL was the only one who was able or willing to answer the call. Thank you to everyone who donated so that we can help these pups and continue to be there when animals in need have nowhere else to turn!”

She encouraged individuals who wanted to help to donate to ARL to help with expenses. “You can be the miracle they need,” she said.

Those interested in donating should visit the ARL’s Facebook page at Animal Rescue League of Iowa or their website at