Since the launch of the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2005, we and our partners, including The HSUS, Doris Day Animal League, and state and local animal welfare groups around the country, have helped to reshape the legal landscape for animal protection in the states. Dogfighting is now a felony in all 50 states, and cockfighting is illegal in all 50 and a felony in 40. All but one state (Montana) have criminal penalties for animal fighting spectators, all but two (North Dakota and South Dakota) have felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty, and all but three (New York, Texas, and West Virginia) make it a felony to possess fighting dogs. All but six states (Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) now restrict the private ownership of dangerous wildlife such as big cats, primates, wolves, bears, and venomous snakes, to one degree or another, to protect public safety and the animals themselves who are caught up in the trade. Seventeen states require the addition of a bittering agent in antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent the poisoning of animals, and this lawmaking led to a voluntary agreement with the industry to change the sweet-tasting product nationwide.
We are marching forward to close the gaps in the legal framework where they exist, and increase the penalties and provide additional tools for law enforcement. Hundreds of new laws have been passed to protect pets and service animals, help animal shelters, crack down on abuses at large-scale commercial puppy mills, and protect wildlife and equines. And issues that were perceived as very difficult just eight years ago, such as improving the treatment of animals on industrial factory farms, are making progress as well: Nine states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island) now ban the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in metal gestation cages where they can’t turn around for virtually their entire lives, and four (California, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island) ban the practice of dairy cow tail-docking, the routine and painful amputation of cows’ tails.
More issues are on the move this year, and just yesterday, the New Jersey Assembly overwhelmingly approved A. 3250 to ban gestation crates, by a vote of 60 to 5. The bill now goes to the Senate for concurrence and then to Gov. Chris Christie, and if enacted, will make New Jersey the tenth state to address this abusive pork industry practice. This week, the West Virginia Senate Natural Resources Committee passed S.B. 466 to ban dangerous wild animals as pets—moving the state one step closer in cracking down on this unregulated practice. This morning, the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee passed H.B. 1148 to ban the trade in shark fins—a critical step toward Maryland becoming the first Atlantic state to join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon, and Washington in cracking down on the brutal practice of cutting off sharks’ fins at sea and leaving them to die slow and painful deaths for shark fin soup. Other priority bills that lawmakers will consider this year including banning toxic lead ammunition that poisons wildlife and the environment in California, prohibiting hound hunting and trapping of bears in Maine, and protecting dogs and their families from a dangerous policy that discriminates against pit bulls in Maryland.
We are blocking policies that harm animals, too: We and our coalition partners with Keep Michigan Wolves Protected are preparing to submit more than 225,000 signatures of Michigan voters to qualify for the statewide ballot and repeal the legislature’s authorization of a sport hunting and trapping season on wolves, a species just beginning to recover from the brink of extinction.
Join us in celebrating this milestone for animal protection policymaking, and help usher in more laws to prevent cruelty and abuse, by contacting your state lawmakers today.