On 26th September 2022, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose struck down Iowa’s third ag-gag law which attempted to criminalise the use of cameras to investigate animal facilities. The newest law attempted to make it a crime for a person committing trespass to use a camera or electronic surveillance device that records images while the device is on the trespassed property. On 10th August 2021, a group of animal protection organizations (Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, Food & Water Watch, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sued the state, asserting that the new law violated the First Amendment. Judge Rose denied the state’s motion for a dismissal of the lawsuit that challenged the law and then granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in their favour.
Mindi Callison, executive director of Bailing Out Benji, one of Iowa’s animal protection groups part of the lawsuit, said, “Now more than ever it is important to give a voice to those that have none and make sure that commercial dog-breeding facilities and other agricultural facilities are complying with the laws… Passing these types of laws to protect agricultural facilities at all costs is irresponsible. We are honoured to be standing on the right side of history in order to expose and educate the public about the atrocities that are happening behind closed doors at puppy mills in Iowa.”
Earlier ag-gag laws were successfully challenged in federal court, prompting state legislators to craft new ones intended to have the same effect. Regarding the first law in 2017, Senior U.S. District Court Judge James E. Gritzner determined the law had violated the First Amendment about freedom of speech. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the injunction based on that the employment provision was “too broad” to avoid violating the First Amendment. The Iowa Legislature then enacted a similar law that sought to prohibit access to agriculture facilities through “deception with the intent to cause physical and economic harm”. Judge Rose took up that case and found that the law was viewpoint-based, and therefore was illegal. Now, the same judge has struck down the third ag-gag law.