Bill that would block cities from banning pet stores is headed to Senate floor

The Iowa Senate os considering legislation that would ban cities from limiting the operation of pet stores and other animal-related businesses. (Photo courtesy of Cedar Valley Humane Society)

Legislation that would ban cities from limiting the operation of pet stores and other animal-related businesses is headed to the Iowa Senate floor for debate.

Senate Study Bill 1195, which is opposed by animal-welfare groups and organizations representing Iowa’s cities and counties, was passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday on an 8-4 party-line vote, with Democrats indicating they’ll be more inclined to support the measure once the language is tweaked.

As written, the bill bars cities and counties from enacting any ordinance or rule that either prohibits or creates a financial hardship for any commercial enterprise involving animals. It would prevent cities and counties from enacting or enforcing ordinances that prohibit the retail sale of dogs and cats in stores. Bans of that type, which often are aimed at puppy mills that supply retail stores with their animals, have already been approved in Boone, Stuart and Fraser.

The Senate bill is backed by the Cavalry Group, a Missouri organization that says local efforts to ban the retail sale of animals “sets a dangerous precedent and opens the barn door wide open for animal-rights groups to introduce legislation in the future to ban the sale of livestock animals.”

Lobbyists for Iowa’s cities have expressed the concern that the bill is “very broad” in scope and appears to limit the ability of cities to impose zoning restrictions on zoos or any other type of animal-related businesses.

One of the bill’s supporters, Sen. Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden, told the Iowa League of Cities on Tuesday that the bill “does not have anything to do with zoning,” but offered an amendment Thursday to make that clear in the legislation itself. The amendment was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee prior to the vote on the bill itself.

One of the four committee Democrats who voted “no” on Thursday, Sen. Zach Wahls of Coralville, expressed optimism that the legislation will be approved by the full Senate.

“I think a few of us will be a ‘no’ vote today, but I think that if we are able to continue to work on the language a little bit we might be able to get some more folks to vote ‘yes’ on the floor,” Wahls said. “I think that we all agree that we have to do everything that we can to protect a lot of the things that have made Iowa a great agricultural state — our fairs, our rodeos. We want to make sure we’ve got the right protections in place.”

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.