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New Report Reveals Best & Worst States for Animal Protection Laws

Discussion in 'Dog Ordinances & Laws' started by Vicki, Dec 19, 2015.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    Curious to know how your state fares when it comes to animal protection laws? One annual report makes it easy to find out.

    The 10th annual year-end report issued by The Animal Legal Defense Fund is out, which ranks the animal protection laws of all 50 states. The rankings are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction*s animal protection laws including over 4,000 pages of statutes.

    The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is the premiere legal organization for animals, working to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Its report is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind, tracking which states are taking animal protection seriously.

    So let*s cut to the chase. Which state is the best when it comes to animal protection laws, and which is the worst?

    Illinois Ranked #1 with the strongest protection, while Kentucky ranked #50 with the weakest—a dishonor its held for nine years in a row.

    Hey Kentucky, what gives? In 2012, WKYT took a stab at figuring that out, and unfortunately it seems not much has changed since.
    ollowing Illinois at the top, in order are Oregon (2), Maine (3), California (4), and Michigan (5). On the flip side, following Kentucky are bottom-dwellers Iowa (49), Wyoming (48), Utah (47), and North Dakota (46), rounding out states with the weakest animal protection laws.

    So were there any surprises in the report this year? To find out, I asked Lora Dunn — one of the report authors and Staff Attorney for the Criminal Justice Program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. She said, “We were very happy to see New Jersey—which has historically ranked fairly low for its animal protection laws—leap into the Top Tier this year, in part, by passing comprehensive legislation relating to dogfighting.â€

    New Jersey was the most improved state, jumping twenty-eight places in rank to 9 this year. Its leap can be explained in part by the passing of a comprehensive dogfighting law that increases penalties and makes dogfighting a RICO (racketeering) offense.
    All 50 states have felony provisions for animal fighting, and now eight states make fighting a RICO (racketeering) offense. She went on to explain how dogfighting is a highly organized and dangerous activity —for the fighting animals and bait animals, not to mention the children who are forced to watch or even participate. She commends New Jersey for passing additional measures to combat this heinous crime, such as making dogfighting a RICO offense.

    Dunn is also pleasantly surprised to see Oklahoma—another previously low-ranking state—strengthen its penalties for harming a police animal, and move into the Top Tier.
    What about trends? A study of the past five years of ALDF’s Ranking Reports shows more than three quarters of all states and territories have significantly improved their animal protection laws, so things seem to be moving in the right direction.

    Dunn notes that protective order legislation continues to be a growing trend, explaining, “We applaud those states that, by law, allow a judge to include animals in domestic violence protective orders.†She says, “This measure is so crucial for both human and animal victims alike, because human victims of domestic violence will often choose to stay in this tragic situation because they fear for their animal’s safety.â€

    Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, concurs. “Protective orders are crucial for removing both human and animal victims from the cycle of domestic violence, because human victims are often afraid to leave their pets behind.†Wells says, “We applaud those states that recognize the clear link between violence towards humans and animals by allowing judges to include animals in domestic violence protective orders—and we hope other states continue to follow suit.â€

    Ohio enacted such a provision this year, bringing the total to 29 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

    Another report trend Dunn points to is legislation prohibiting leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle (a.k.a. “dogs-in-hot-cars†laws). She points to Tennessee, which took one step further this year by adding civil immunity for people who forcibly remove an animal from a hot car.

    Delaware also added similar prohibition, and seventeen states and the Virgin Islands now have laws that prohibit reckless conduct, which includes leaving an animal in a hot car.
    Hopefully before long, people in all states will be protected by civil immunity when they take action to rescue animals in hot cars, and those who leave animals to swelter will be punished by law.

    I’m a fan of administering a dose of one’s own medicine.


    • Read the report: Wondering where your state stands when it comes to animal protection laws? If you’re interested in reading the full report, including details about each state, you can download it here.
    • ALDF’s complete “Animal Protection Laws of the U.S.A. and Canada†compendium, on which the report is based, is available at www.aldf.org/compendium.
    Wait. What’s a compendium? It’s “a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication.†(Full disclosure: I had to Google it myself).

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