Animal Welfare Rule Changes FAQs

Updated Jan. 15, 2020

General

  • What are the requirements to bring a dog or cat into Iowa?
    • All dogs and cats entering Iowa must have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) stating the animals appear to be free from disease or exposure to infectious or contagious diseases.
    • A CVI is valid for 30 days from the date of inspection.
    • All dogs over four months of age entering Iowa must be vaccinated for rabies with a USDA-approved vaccination, and the vaccination must be current.
  • What is a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI)?
    • A CVI is a legible record, on an official form issued by a licensed, accredited veterinarian, and approved by the state animal health official in the state of origin.
    • To be valid, a CVI must include the following: name and address of consignor (sender), name and address of consignee (recipient), point of origin of the animal, point of destination of the animal, date of examination, number of animals examined, official individual identification of all animals, sex, age, breed of each animal and a statement indicating the animal appears to be free from disease or exposure to infectious or contagious diseases.

Licensing

  • Who needs to apply for an Animal Welfare License with the State of Iowa?
    • All commercial establishments must be authorized to operate in the State of Iowa. This includes commercial breeders, pet shops, boarding kennels, dealers, rescues, research facilities, commercial kennels (boarding, grooming and training facilities), public auctions, dog daycares, animal shelters and pounds, as defined in chapters 162 and 67.
  • How much does it cost to apply for a license?
    • Commercial breeders, rescues, dog daycares, pet shops, boarding kennels, dealers, commercial kennels and public auctions pay a non-refundable fee of $175 annually.
    • Animal shelters, pounds and research facilities pay a non-refundable fee of $75 annually.
  • My location is not zoned for a commercial business. Will having a state license exempt me from having to follow the rules in my local municipality?
    • No. If a local municipality has zoning ordinances or stricter rules/laws, you must follow whichever law is most restrictive. Please check local zoning and rules/laws before applying for a state license.
  • My municipality only allows a certain number of animals in a home. Does having a license allow me to have more animals in my home?
    • No. If a local municipality has zoning ordinances or stricter rules/laws, you must follow whichever law is most restrictive. Please check local zoning and rules/laws before applying for a state license.
  • The application asks for a taxpayer identification number. What is that?
    • This is the number issued to your business by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If your business is owned solely by you as an individual, this may be your Social Security number. This information remains confidential.
  • How do I find more information on a licensed facility such as a dog daycare, commercial breeder, boarding kennel, groomer or trainer?
  • I’m moving. Can I transfer my license?
    • No. Licenses are non-transferable. You must re-apply for a license, submit the non-refundable fee and have an inspection at your new facility before you can operate at the new location.
  • I’m selling my business. Can I transfer my license?
    • No. Licenses are non-transferable. Any changes in ownership require a new application along with the non-refundable licensing fee. An inspection must also be completed before the new owner can start operating the business.
  • My licensed expired. Can I operate?
    • No. You cannot operate until you re-apply for a license, pay the non-refundable licensing fee and have an inspection completed. Operating without a license is subject to a $1,000 per day civil penalty and criminal penalties.
  • How far in advance should I apply for a license?
    • You may apply for a license up to six months before your business is scheduled to open. It is recommend that you apply for a license at least two months prior to your planned opening date. This allows adequate time to get your initial licensing inspection scheduled and completed. Your facility must have an approved licensing inspection before you can open for business.
  • What happens if I do not pass my initial licensing inspection?
    • Your license must be approved within six months of the application date. The inspector will come out to conduct a pre-licensing inspection no more than three times. If more than six months has lapsed, or the inspector needs to return for a fourth inspection prior to approval, then a new application and non-refundable fee must be submitted.
  • When will my facility be inspected?
    • Every state-licensed commercial facility will be inspected at least once annually. Inspections are unannounced and occur during normal business hours, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • What if my facility does not pass its inspection?
    • Commercial establishments will be notified if the inspector finds any areas of non-compliance during their visit. The inspector will review the areas of non-compliance, identify what the facility must do to become compliant, and provide a timeline for correcting the issues. This information will be documented in the inspection report. Inspection reports can be printed or e-mailed to the commercial establishment or found online.
  • Can I be penalized if my facility is non-compliant?
    • Yes. A licensed commercial establishment is subject to a penalty of not more than $500, regardless of the number of animals, for violating Iowa Code Chapter 162 and/or Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 21-67.
    • If the licensed commercial establishment violates a standard of care involving housing as outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 162.10A, which addresses food, water, housing facilities, sanitary control or grooming. The Department will determine a corrective plan and the business will have up to 15 days to comply. If the commercial establishment fails to become compliant, each day that the violation continues will be deemed a separate offense and may be subject to additional fines or penalties.
    • A person who fails to meet the standard of care outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 162.10A is guilty of a simple misdemeanor. The animals are subject to seizure and impoundment and may be sold or destroyed. The commercial establishment’s license may also be suspended and/or revoked.
  • Can I be penalized for operating without a license?
    • A person who operates a commercial establishment without an approved license, registration or permit issued or renewed under Iowa Code Chapter 162 is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $1,000. Each day that a facility is in violation may be deemed a separate offense, and the establishment may be subject to additional fines or penalties.
    • A person who operates a commercial establishment without an authorization issued or renewed by the Department is guilty of a simple misdemeanor. Each day that a facility operates in violation may be deemed a separate offense and the establishment may be subject to additional fines or penalties.

Complaints

  • How can I file a complaint about a state-licensed facility?
    • You can fill out the complaint form online or contact the Animal Welfare Division at 515-281-6358 or animalwelfare@IowaAgriculture.gov. All complaints must be filed on the Department’s official complaint form. All form fields must be filled out so the Department can follow up to gather more information.
  • I have a complaint about an unlicensed facility. What can I do?
    • You can fill out the complaint form online or contact the Animal Welfare Division at 515-281-6358 or animalwelfare@IowaAgriculture.gov. All complaints must be filed on the Department’s official complaint form. All form fields must be filled out so the Department can follow up to gather more information.
  • Can I file a complaint anonymously?
    • Yes. You can check the “request to remain anonymous” box on the Department’s complaint form. However, if the case goes to court, your anonymity cannot be guaranteed.
  • I want to report animal abuse and/or neglect. What should I do?
    • The Department does not have jurisdiction over animal abuse and/or neglect cases. If you suspect pet or livestock abuse and/or neglect, you should report it to local law enforcement officials. Depending on where you live, this may be animal control, the police department or the county sheriff’s office.

General Requirements

Cleaning

  • How are cleaning requirements defined by Iowa law?
    • Cleaning is the mechanical removal of organic matter (debris, dirt, straw, food, etc.) and waste through the application of soap, detergent or another cleaning agent followed by the rinsing of all surfaces with clean water.
  • How often does a facility need to be cleaned under Iowa law?
    • Housing facilities and primary enclosures must be cleaned at least once in a 24-hour period, or more frequently if needed to reduce disease hazards and odors.
    • Dirt, hair, excreta (including urine and feces), food waste and other debris should be removed from the primary enclosure daily, or more frequently if needed to prevent accumulation and contamination of the animals.
  • Can pressure washers be used for cleaning?
    • Yes. As long the animals are not in the primary enclosure during the cleaning process.

Sanitization

  • What is sanitization as defined by Iowa law?
    • Sanitization means to disinfect an object after cleaning it to eliminate most or all pathogenic microorganisms.
    • Sanitization must be done by removing all dirt, hair, excreta, food waste and other debris, cleaning the surfaces with hot water and soap or detergent followed by the application of a safe and effective disinfectant. Facilities should follow the manufacturer’s directions listed on the label.
  • What are the sanitization requirements for runs and exercise areas with gravel or other nonpermanent surface materials?
    • Soiled materials must be removed from the run or exercise area periodically. Then a suitable disinfectant must be applied to the surface. After sanitization, the surface should be re-covered with clean gravel or other nonpermanent materials.
  • How often does a facility need to be sanitized?
    • Sanitization must occur at least once every two weeks. It may be necessary to sanitize more frequently to reduce disease hazards.
    • Primary enclosures, food receptacles, water receptacles and other surfaces that come in direct contact with animals must be cleaned and disinfected before they can be used by another animal.
       

Primary Enclosures

  • What are the size requirements for primary enclosures in commercial establishments?
    • The primary enclosure must be large enough for the animal(s) to stand/sit erect without their heads touching the top of the kennel, lie down with their limbs fully extended and turn about.
    • The primary enclosure must also provide adequate space based on the age, size, weight, breed and temperament of the animal.
    • Additionally, cats must have adequate space for a litter box so that litter does not come in contact with food and water.

Vaccinations

  • What vaccinations are required for dogs and cats in commercial establishments?
    • All dogs and cats in the care of a dealer or rescue, or transported into commercial establishments (except animal shelters and pounds), must be vaccinated against distemper, parvo and rabies prior to entering the care of the dealer/rescue or commercial establishment, unless a written exemption is provided by the owner’s veterinarian. This applies to boarding kennels, commercial kennels (grooming, training or boarding facilities), daycares, rescues, dealers, pet shops, breeders and public auctions.
    • Animal shelters and pounds must vaccinate dogs and cats in their care for rabies, distemper and parvo within a reasonable amount of time after the animal enters the establishment, unless a written exemption is provided by a veterinarian.
    • All commercial establishments must keep their dogs and cats current on rabies, distemper and parvo vaccinations, unless a written exemption is provided by a veterinarian.
  • Are vaccine titers an acceptable form of vaccine verification?
    • No. Vaccine titers cannot be accepted in place of a vaccination.
  • What forms can be used to prove an animal has been vaccinated so it can enter a commercial establishment, such as a boarding kennel, groomer, trainer, dog daycare, etc.?
    • Written documentation of vaccination from a veterinarian.
    • A rabies certificate signed by a veterinarian.

Records

  • What records are commercial establishments (animal shelters, pounds, commercial breeders, pet shops, dealers, rescues, public auctions and research facilities) required to maintain?
    • Date of ownership change
    • Identification of the animal
    • Names, mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, if available, of the seller and purchaser or transferor and recipient.
    • State of Iowa Animal Welfare License/Registration number of the commercial establishment.
    • Source of the animal
    • Date animal entered the care of the commercial establishment and date the animal left the care of the commercial establishment.
    • Method and date of euthanasia, if applicable.
    • Transfer of animal within or between commercial establishments (such as a foster home).
    • List of prophylactic immunization(s) given, including date(s) of administration), if applicable.
    • List of internal parasite medication(s) given and date(s) administered, if applicable.
    • Description of other medical care provided to the animal, including type of medical care received and date(s) of medical care.
  • Do boarding kennels and commercial kennels (boarding, grooming and training) have different record keeping requirements than other commercial establishments?
    • Yes. Boarding kennels’ and commercial kennels’ records must include the following:
      • Owner’s name, address, telephone number and email address
      • Identification of the animal
      • Duration of the animal’s stay
      • Service(s) provided
      • Any illness/injury which occurred during the animal’s stay and the veterinary treatment the animal received.
      • Written documentation of the animal’s vaccinations against rabies, parvo or distemper or written exemption from a licensed veterinarian.
  • Do dog daycares have special record keeping requirements in addition to those of a boarding kennel or commercial kennel?
    • Yes. In addition to the requirements of a boarding kennel and commercial kennel, dog daycares must also keep records of the pre-entry screening process used to evaluate the dog’s temperament and its ability to interact with other dogs and humans in a positive manner. This screening must also include, but is not limited to, a social history of the dog from the dog’s owner. These records must be retained as long as the dog is enrolled in the daycare.  
    • Dog daycares must also keep on record:
      • Written documentation of the dog’s medical history, including distemper, parvo and rabies vaccinations, unless a written exemption is provided by a veterinarian.
      • Written documentation that the dog has been spayed or neutered, if the dog is over six months of age.
      • Written acknowledgement from the dog’s owner that he/she understands the inherent risk of injury or disease that may occur when dogs owned by different people are allowed to commingle. This acknowledgement must either be signed or initialed by the dog’s owner.
  • How long do records need to be retained?
    • All records must be retained for a period of 12 months.
    • These records must be retained as long as the dog is enrolled in the daycare. 

Animal Shelters

  • Can an animal shelter take in animals besides dogs and cats?
    • No. Animal shelters can only accept dogs and cats. However, an animal shelter can take in rabbits, rodents, non-human primates, fish, birds or other vertebrate animals if the animal shelter obtains a pet store license.
  • What is a vertebrate animal?
    • An animal that is not a member of the equine, bovine, ovine and porcine species or an ostrich, rhea or emu.
  • Can an animal shelter take in wildlife?
    • No. An animal shelter cannot take in wildlife unless the animal shelter has a wildlife rehabilitator license from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. It is illegal for an unlicensed person to possess wildlife.
  • Can an animal shelter act as a pound?
    • No. If an animal shelter wants to serve as a pound, then the facility must also be licensed as a pound. Under Iowa law, a pound is defined as a facility for the prevention of cruelty to animals operated by the state, a municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring seized stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted dogs, cats or other animals; or a facility operated for such a purpose under a contract with any municipal corporation or incorporated society.
  • Can an animal shelter take in and adopt livestock such as pigs, cows, sheep or goats? What about pot-bellied pigs?
    • No. Animal shelters can only take in dogs and cats. Pot-bellied pigs are considered livestock.
    • Iowa Code Section 163.30 states, “a dealer is a person who buys, sells or exchanges pigs.” Under Iowa code, adoption is also considered an “exchange.” A person cannot act as a dealer unless issued a dealer license. Similar language can be found under Iowa Code Section 166A regarding sheep.
    • An animal shelter can apply to become a livestock dealer, if the shelter intends to adopt pigs and sheep. To obtain a livestock dealer license, the animal shelter must be bonded and insured. A livestock dealer application form can be found here.
  • Do animal shelters have to sterilize animals prior to adoption?
    • According to Iowa Code Section 162.20, animal shelters must not transfer ownership of a dog or cat by sale or adoption, unless the dog or cat has been spayed/neutered or adopted with a sterilization agreement.

Pounds

  • What commercial establishments need a pound license?
    • A pound is a facility for the prevention of cruelty to animals operated by the state, a municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring seized stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted dogs, cats or other animals. This also includes facilities operating for the same purpose under contract with a municipality or incorporated society.
  • Do pounds have to sterilize animals prior to adoption?
    • Under Iowa Code Section 162.20, pounds must not transfer ownership of a dog or cat by sale or adoption, unless the dog or cat has been spayed/neutered or adopted with a sterilization agreement.

Dealers

  • Who needs to be licensed as a dealer?
    • Anyone buying, selling, exchanging, transferring or adopting dogs or cats must be licensed as a dealer. This includes rescues.
  • Are there any additional penalties that apply to dealers?
    • Yes. It is unlawful for a dealer to knowingly ship a diseased animal and is subject to a fine not exceeding $100. Each diseased animal shipped is considered a separate offense and may be subject to additional fines or penalties.
  • Do dealers have to sterilize animals prior to sale/exchange/transfer/adoption?
    • No. According to Iowa Code Chapter 162.20, only pounds and animal shelters must spay or neuter, or adopt with a sterilization agreement, prior to transferring ownership of a dog or cat by sale or adoption.

Breeders

  • When do I need to be licensed as a commercial dog or cat breeder? Does a hobby breeder have to be licensed?
    • You need to be licensed as a commercial breeder if you have four or more sexually intact dogs over 12 months of age, are actively breeding and selling, exchanging or leasing dogs or cats.
  • I have several show dogs that are still intact and over 12 months of age. Once a year, or every couple years, I breed them and sell puppies. Do I need to be licensed as a commercial breeder?
    • You need to be licensed as a commercial breeder if you have four or more sexually intact dogs over 12 months of age, are actively breeding and selling, exchanging or leasing dogs or cats.
  • My breeding operation is located in my house. How many animals can I have in my home?
    • In-home facilities are limited to six adult dogs and/or cats, including pets. This limit applies to all licensees.

Grooming, Boarding and Training Facilities

  • When do I need to be licensed as a commercial kennel?
    • You need to be licensed as a commercial kennel if you offer boarding, training and/or grooming in return for compensation at your facility.
  • I run a part-time grooming business in my home. Do I need a license?
  • Can dogs from different households co-mingle?
    • No. Group housing is not permitted in boarding kennels or commercial kennels (boarding, training and/or grooming) unless operating as a dog daycare. This means animals from different households cannot be comingled. Animals from the same household can be comingled if they are compatible and the primary enclosure is adequately sized.
  • How old must dogs be to attend a boarding, grooming or training facility?
    • There is no minimum age requirement. However, dogs must be current on rabies, distemper and parvo vaccinations in order to enter a boarding, grooming or training facility.

Rescues

  • I operate a rescue organization. Do I need a license?
    • Yes. Rescues are a sub-classification of a dealer license. A rescue is a person or group of persons who accept, purchase, exchange or solicit for dogs or cats with the intent of finding permanent adoptive homes or providing lifelong care. Rescues may also use foster homes as a primary means of housing dogs or cats.
  • Are there additional penalties that apply to rescues?
    • Yes. A rescue is a sub-classification of a dealer license. It is unlawful for a dealer to knowingly ship a diseased animal and is subject to a fine not exceeding $100. Each diseased animal shipped is considered a separate offense and may be subject to additional fines or penalties.
  • Do rescues have to sterilize animals prior to adoption?
    • No. Per Iowa Code Section 62.20, only pounds and animal shelters must not transfer ownership of a dog or cat by sale or adoption, unless the dog or cat has been spayed or neutered.

In-Home Facilities

  • I operate my business out of my home. How many animals can I have in my home?
    • In-home facilities are limited to six adult dogs and/or cats, including pets. This applies to all commercial establishments.
  • Do in-home facilities need an area to isolate diseased animals?
    • Yes. In-home facilities must have the ability to isolate diseased animals to prevent healthy animals from being exposed.
  • Does each animal in an in-home facility need its own primary enclosure?
    • Yes. Each animal within an in-home facility must have its own designated primary enclosure.

Foster Homes

  • How do I apply to become a foster oversight organization?
    • The application for a foster oversight organization can be found here.
    • The applicant must include the following:
      • Proposed plan for providing oversight of the foster care home, including frequency of foster home inspections.
      • Actions to be taken by the foster oversight organization in the event that the foster care home is not adequately providing for the animals in their care.
      • The name, mailing address, email address and telephone number of the staff person who is responsible for administering the foster care program.
      • The name, mailing address, email address and telephone number of the second staff person who is responsible for administering the foster care program in the absence of the primary administrator.
      • The number of foster homes the foster oversight organization is requesting.
      • The number of foster homes the foster oversight organization currently oversees.
      • Copies of all forms utilized by the foster oversight organization, including but not limited to inspection forms, applications to become a foster home, etc.
      • Number of paid employees, both full-time and part-time, working for the foster oversight organization.
      • Number of volunteers serving the foster oversight organization.
      • Number of volunteer hours utilized by the foster oversight organization per week.
      • Criteria used to determine if a foster care home is capable of caring for an animal.
      • Documentation that the foster oversight organization has sufficient infrastructure to adequately supervise all foster homes and the animals in their care.
  • How many foster homes can my rescue, animal shelter or pound have under Iowa code?
    • In order to operate foster homes, a licensee must apply to be a foster oversight organization. The application can be found here. During the first year of operation, the foster oversight organization will be approved for no more than 20 foster homes. The Department and the facility’s inspector will review the foster oversight organization’s application and determine how many foster homes they can have.
  • Can a foster oversight organization have more than 20 foster homes?
    •  A foster oversight organization can apply for additional foster homes in subsequent years of operation by providing documentation of its ability to oversee and manage more than 20 foster homes.
  • Do I need to reapply for foster homes every year?
    • Yes. The foster oversight application is due every year at the same time the commercial establishment’s license is renewed.
  • How often do I need to inspect my organization’s foster homes?
    • Foster homes must be inspected by the foster oversight organization at least once each year. Documentation of the inspection must be maintained in each foster home’s records.
  • How many animals can be within a foster home?
    • A foster home cannot have more than six animals, including pets owned by the foster home, with the exception of a litter of puppies or kittens under 16 weeks of age. A litter of puppies or kittens under 16 weeks of age is considered the equivalent of one dog or cat. A foster home cannot have more than two litters of puppies or kittens under 16 weeks of age at any given time.

Dog Daycares

  • How many dogs can I have in a playgroup?
    • There can be no more than 15 dogs per playgroup.
  • What kind of supervision is required for each playgroup?
    • There must be at least one person assigned to provide direct and immediate visual supervision to each playgroup.
  • Does each dog need its own primary enclosure?
    • Yes. Each dog within the facility must have its own primary enclosure. When dogs are not under direct and immediate visual supervision, the dog(s) must be placed into individual primary enclosures, unless the dogs are from the same household and compatible with one another.
    • If housing more than one dog in the primary enclosure, it must be large enough for all dogs within the primary enclosure to comfortably lay down, stand erect and turn around without being on top of other dogs.
  • How much space does each dog require?
    • Each dog must have at least 75 square feet of play space.
  • How old must dogs be to attend daycare?
    • There is no minimum age requirement. However, dogs must be current on rabies, distemper and parvo vaccinations in order to attend daycare.
  • Do dogs need a rest period?
    • Yes. Iowa Administrative Rule 67.8(6)(i) requires that at least two hours of rest time be provided within a primary enclosure each day.
  • Why do dogs need a rest period?
    • Boarding and comingling of dogs from different households can be stressful. Comingled dogs need to have the ability to get away from one another for periods of rest in a safe environment.
    • Comingled dogs in play settings may become overtired, which can negatively affect their behavior. When a dog is tired, it has a limited amount of energy to control its natural impulses so it’s more likely to take risks. This can create additional and unnecessary risks in the daycare environment. 
  • Is direct supervision required when a dog is in a primary enclosure?
    • No. Direct supervision is not required when a dog is in a primary enclosure.
  • My facility has two playgroups and two employees. What should I do when one of the staff members needs a break?
    • Each playgroup requires at least one person providing direct visual supervision at all times. A person can only supervise one playgroup at a time. If no one is available to direct visual supervision to the playgroup, then the dogs must be placed in primary enclosures. Direct visual supervision is not required while dogs are in primary enclosures.

Pet Shops

  • When do I need a pet shop license?
    • You need a pet shop license if you receive more than $500 from the sale or exchange of vertebrate animals during a 12 month period, or exchange more than six animals during a twelve-month period.

USDA Licensees

  • If I am licensed with the USDA, do I also need a license permit from the State of Iowa?
    • Yes. USDA licensees must submit an application for a permit with the State of Iowa as well as an annual fee of $175. In order to receive or renew your State of Iowa permit, your USDA license must be active.                                                                          
  • What are the requirements to bring a dog or cat into Iowa?
    • All dogs and cats entering Iowa must have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) stating the animals appear to be free from disease or exposure to infectious or contagious diseases.
    • A CVI is valid for 30 days from the date of inspection.
    • All dogs over four months of age entering Iowa must be vaccinated for rabies with a USDA-approved vaccination, and the vaccination must be current.
  • What is a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI)?
    • A CVI is a legible record, on an official form issued by a licensed, accredited veterinarian, and approved by the state animal health official in the state of origin.
    • To be valid, a CVI must include the following: name and address of consignor (sender), name and address of consignee (recipient), point of origin of the animal, point of destination of the animal, date of examination, number of animals examined, official individual identification of all animals, sex, age, breed of each animal and a statement indicating the animal appears to be free from disease or exposure to infectious or contagious diseases.