Oh, what a state we’re in. Animal protection laws in the United States continue to progress, but the problem is that their progress is very ragged overall because of the fact that some states are gung-ho to protect animals while others have, for various reasons, chosen not to increase penalties for animal abuse. As a result, we end up with situations that can vary across state lines both by penalties and perception.
Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming were 2013’s five worst states to enact legislation to protect animals from abuse, according to the latest report released by the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
Following a detailed comparative analysis of animal protection laws, ALDF ranked all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories for the general comprehensiveness and relative strength of their respective animal protection laws. The report analyzes more than 4,000 pages of statutes, tracks fifteen broad categories of provisions, and reveals the states where animal law has real teeth.
I was relieved that the ALDF map doesn’t follow established red state/blue state lines. A liberal state like New York and a conservative state like Utah both bear the stigma of being in the ALDF’s bottom tier of states.
It also calls out the bottom of the list, where you will find Kentucky, the single worst state in the nation for animal protection laws, for the seventh year in a row.
The horse world may find this hard to swallow. With many of the nations breed and sport organizations, as well as horse health groups and publications, headquartered in the state, it would be interesting to know whether or not horses have more protection than other animals in the bluegrass state. And if not, why not?
Why are so many states with large domestic animal and livestock populations in the dog house when it comes to getting tough on animal abuse?
According to ALDF, legislative weaknesses in the bottom-tiered states include inadequate standards of basic care for an animal, limited authority given to humane officers, and lack of mandatory reporting when veterinarians suspect animal cruelty.
On the other end of the spectrum, this year’s “best five states for animals” list includes Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, and California; these states demonstrated the strongest commitment to combating animal cruelty through their laws. In Canada, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario topped the list.
For the sixth consecutive year, Illinois was ranked the best for the strength of its laws protecting animals.
ALDF released its first rankings report in 2006; since then more than half of all states and territories have made a significant improvement in their animal protection laws.
“Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for animal protection do.,” says Stephen Wells, executive director for ALDF.
The full report, including a rankings map, chart, and details about each state, is available at aldf.org/staterankings. ALDF’s complete “Animal Protection Laws of the U.S.A. and Canada” compendium, on which the report is based, is available at aldf.org/compendium.
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. The group recently announced that it planned a lawsuit about the New York Police Department (NYPD) for lack of enforcement of city regulations protecting carriage horses.