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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ranking the States on Animal Protection Policies

State legislatures around the country are in full swing with the beginning of their 2013 legislative sessions, and already lawmakers are considering a number of priority animal protection bills. It’s a good time to take stock of how the states are doing with animal protection policymaking, and what gaps in the state laws need to be addressed for animal welfare.

To that end, The Humane Society of the United States this week released its annual Humane State Ranking, measuring hundreds of state laws on 75 different subjects, covering the protection of pets, wildlife, farm animals, equines, and other creatures. California retained its position as the most humane state, followed closely by Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, New Jersey and Maine. South Dakota came in last place, with Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Carolina rounding out the bottom five. The Dakotas in particular received low marks because they are the only two states in the nation without any felony-level penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty.

A number of states moved up in the rankings, because of strong legislative performance on animal welfare issues in 2012. There were 74 new laws enacted for animals last year, and here are some of the most important highlights:

  • Massachusetts passed a comprehensive pet protection law, banning gas chambers for shelter euthanasia, prohibiting bans on breeds of dogs, and including pets in domestic violence restraining orders.

With those new laws on the books, state legislatures have enacted a total of 696 new animal welfare policies since 2005, representing a huge surge in animal protection lawmaking at the state level. There are still some gaps in the law, and much more work to be done in 2013: Animal advocates are focusing on curbing the private ownership of dangerous exotic pets in the six remaining states with no restrictions, strengthening the laws against animal cruelty and fighting, protecting farm animals from extreme confinement in gestation crates and veal crates, addressing breed-specific laws that discriminate against pit bull-type dogs, and much more.

You can see where your state currently stands on animal welfare in the Humane State Ranking, and what you can do to help move your state up in the standings.

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