The Animal Legal Defense Fund has released its annual analysis of the 50 U.S. states and what their laws do--or don't do--to protect animals or how animals are classified under laws in the state. The laws can be wide ranging, from agriculture to pets to the rights of evacuees to take their pets when fleeing from a storm or forest fire.
For the third consecutive year, Illinois held the top spot alone in the rankings, thanks to its wide array of animal protection laws. Alaska showed the most improvement, moving from 44th last year to 37th overall this year. Alaska's improved ranking was linked to its enactment of stronger felony penalties and for criminalizing the sexual assault of animals.
West Virginia, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Arizona all improved their standings because, in part, these states adopted laws that allow animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders. Many other states moved up in this year's report as well.
Nevertheless, Kentucky, once again, had the infamous distinction of having the weakest laws in the nation?a position it has held since 2007.
The study is a little questionable in that you can't directly compare one state to another, since the same laws and issues aren't present in all states, but you can get a general idea of how concerned state legislatures are about being proactive about animal legislation.
The top five states for progressive animal legislation in 2010 were: 1. Illinois, 2. Maine, 3. Michigan, 4. Oregon, 5. California.
And the worst five? Perhaps you shouldn't jump to too many conclusions, but here they are: 46. Iowa, 47. Mississippi, 48. Idaho, 49. North Dakota, 50. Kentucky.
Remember that these standings are based on laws related to all animals, and certainly can't be used to judge how horses are treated. A law protecting lab animals, for instance, or changing zoo regulations, might possibly help elevate a state in the overall standings but mean nothing to how horses are protected under state laws.
Surely Kentucky's new horse welfare legislation--House Bill 39, signed into law by Governor Beshear back in June in front of Man o' War's statue at the Kentucky Horse Park--wasn't just a publicity stunt to appease World Equestrian Games critics. I wonder how many times it's been enforced. That should have helped move the Bluegrass up in the national standings but it does not seem to be the case.
I think that touting that legislation as the "nation's first" means that it is the first to single out horses specifically; perhaps the problem is that it leaves other species unprotected in Kentucky.
Governor Beshear signed Kentucky's horse protection legislation into law in June of 2010. The new law didn't get Kentucky out of the animal legislation cellar, though.
The ALDF has a document download page with many more details from the study. The Jurga Report's article on the 2009 report of the ALDF predicted that Kentucky would rise from the cellar.