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Kevin O'Flaherty

Owning a dog comes with specific responsibilities, including adhering to your state’s dog laws. These laws are designed to protect dogs and humans and ensure that dogs are properly cared for and trained. In this article, we will look closer at Iowa’s dog laws, including the number of dogs you can own, dangerous dog laws, required vaccines, dog bites, dog abandonment, dog leash and tethering laws, dog abuse, and dog fighting. Whether you’re a new dog owner or a longtime Iowa resident, understanding these laws is essential to keeping your dog safe and avoiding legal issues.  

Does Iowa Have Laws on How Many Dogs You Can Own?  

Iowa has no statewide limit on how many dogs you can have in your home. However, some counties and cities have their own restrictions on this number. For example, Des Moines, Iowa, allows only three licensed dogs. If you are concerned about the number of dogs in your home, you can always check with your county or city government for their specific rules and regulations.  

Required Vaccines for Dogs by Law in Iowa  

A dog must have valid ID tags and a rabies vaccine tag attached to the collar to be deemed property in Iowa. Under Iowa law 351.33, having a dog six months or older without vaccination against rabies is unlawful. The anti-rabies vaccination must be an injection approved by the state department of agriculture and land stewardship given by a licensed veterinarian. The veterinarian will issue a tag with the vaccination certificate to attach to your dog’s collar. There is an exception for dogs kept in kennels and not allowed to run at large.  

Dog Bite Laws in Iowa  

The owner of a dog is held liable for injuries and damages inflicted by the dog or if the dog is caught in the act of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal or the dog is attacking or trying to bite a person unless the party that incurred the damages is doing something unlawful or is contributing to the injury.  

Iowa has a statute of limitations on personal injury cases, which extends to dog bite claims. The injured person has two years to begin a lawsuit seeking damages for injuries. Iowa has strict liability laws that mean regardless of the owner’s knowledge or care. However, a negligence standard will apply if the dog has rabies. The owner will not be held liable if they do not know their dog had rabies and they exercised reasonable care to prevent the dog from biting others.  

owner hugging dog

Iowa Dog Abandonment Laws  

Animal abandonment in Iowa can result in varying types of misdemeanors. A person that commits animal abandonment that does not result in injury or death of the animal is subject to a simple misdemeanor. Animal abandonment that causes injury other than serious injury or even death will result in a serious misdemeanor. Animal abandonment that causes serious injury or death to an animal can be found guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.  

Iowa Dog Leash and Tethering Laws  

Dogs must be restrained at all times by a person deemed competent on a leash not exceeding ten feet in length when not on the owner’s property or in the owner’s vehicle.  

An animal must be supervised and tethered to a rope, chain, or similar device less than ten feet long. An animal is deemed ‘unattended’ if the owner is 50 feet or more away and if the animal is out of eyesight. An animal cannot be tethered and left unattended continuously for more than 30 minutes in any three-hour period.  

Under Iowa Criminal law, no owner should allow the following:  

  • Tethering of dangerous animals  
  • Tethering of animals that allows them access to a public sidewalk or street  
  • Tethering an animal to a utility pole, parking meter, building, structure, fence, sign, tree, bush, bench, advertising rack, or any other object on private property  
  • Tethering of an animal in an unsafe location  
  • Tethering of animal with a collar made of metal (excluding the buckle)  
  • Tethering an animal in a manner that allows it to become entangled with another tethered animal  

What is Considered Dog Abuse?

Animal abuse in Iowa is defined as a person who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly acts to inflict injury, serious injury, or death on an animal by force, violence, or poisoning.  

Punishment for Dog Abuse  

A person that commits animal abuse that causes injury other than serious injury or death is guilty of a serious misdemeanor. A person that commits animal abuse that causes serious injury or death to an animal is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. A person may be found guilty of a Class D felony if the animal abuse committed causes serious injury or death and they have been found guilty of animal abuse previously, resulting in a serious or aggravated misdemeanor.  

Laws on Dog Fighting in Iowa  

There are several laws in Iowa outlawing animal fighting and dog fighting. It is a felony in Iowa to participate in organized dog fighting. This includes owning and training dogs for fighting and promoting or betting on dog fights. If you are a spectator of a dog fight, you can be charged with a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for any subsequent offenses.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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