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Monday, December 09, 2013

Top 13 in ’13: State Animal Protection Laws

It’s been a remarkable year of policymaking at the state level, with legislatures so far passing 107 new animal protection measures. A handful of states are still in session and the number may climb, but in total, it makes more than 800 new policies in the states since 2005, across a broad range of subjects bearing upon the lives of pets, wildlife, animals in research, and farm animals. That is tremendous forward progress, closing the gaps in the legal framework for animals, and ushering in new standards in society for how animals are treated. I’d like to recap what I view as the top 13 state victories for animals in 2013.

LEAD AMMO: California adopted the first statewide requirement for lead-free ammunition when shooting animals. Millions of animals are poisoned by lead left behind by hunters, and more than 130 species are affected. We hope this gain provides inspiration to other states and to federal agencies to make the switch to non-lead ammunition. Lead has been prohibited in waterfowl hunting since 1991, and it’s long past time to require the same in the case of other species.

SharkSHARK FINNING: The Atlantic Ocean states of Delaware, Maryland, and New York banned the trade in shark fin products, making a total of eight states and three U.S. territories that have taken action to reduce the demand for shark fins. Up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins—often cut off at sea while the animals are still alive, left to die slowly in the oceans—just for a bowl of soup.

ANIMAL CRUELTY: North Dakota became the 49th state to adopt felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to animals (leaving South Dakota as the only holdout). Alabama strengthened its cruelty law, by extending felony penalties to animals other than dogs and cats. Ohio upgraded its penalties for cruelty committed by kennel owners and operators. And Pennsylvania and Tennessee passed bills requiring that alleged animal abusers pay the costs of care for holding their animals until trial, so those costs are not a burden on nonprofit or municipal animal care agencies.

PuppymillPUPPY MILLS: Vermont passed legislation requiring commercial dog breeders to meet basic standards of animal care, and strengthened the state's “pet lemon law” so consumers who purchase sick puppies will have additional remedies for reimbursement for reasonable veterinary expenses. West Virginia also passed a law to crack down on puppy mills, and require licensing and inspection of large-scale commercial dog breeders that were previously unregulated.

EXOTIC PETS:  Arkansas banned future private possession of most primates—including chimpanzees, baboons and macaque monkeys—as exotic pets. All but six states now have laws on the books to prevent people from having large, powerful wild animals as pets, since it almost always turns out badly for the animals, and it can result in terrible harm to human beings.

SPAY/NEUTER: Maryland established a fund that could generate close to $1 million annually for spaying and neutering dogs and cats, with a focus on low-income residents. The new law will make competitive grants available to animal shelters and rescue groups to facilitate and promote spay/neuter services, and to help reduce pet overpopulation and drive down euthanasia rates.

ANIMAL FIGHTING:  Nevada fortified its anti-cockfighting statute, making it a felony on the first offense. Previously, under a loophole in the law, only repeat offenders could be charged with felonies, and many cockfighters viewed the anemic penalties as simply the cost of doing business. Now, 40 states have felony penalties for cockfighting, and 37 of them are for the first offense, helping to crack down on this staged animal combat and associated criminal activities.

HorseHORSE TRIPPING: Oregon and Nevada banned the cruel sport of horse tripping, where galloping horses are roped by the front legs, causing them to violently trip and fall. Supporting the measures were broad coalitions that included horse owners, veterinarians, riding groups, and mainstream rodeo fans.

GAS CHAMBERS: Texas passed a statewide ban on the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers as a method of euthanasia in animal shelters. Mississippi ended its use of the chambers without enacting a statute, and a number of other states are following suit.  

POACHING: Stepping up the national battle against poachers, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island passed legislation required to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. The national law enforcement network prevents wildlife violators who have lost their hunting, trapping or fishing privileges due to illegal wildlife crimes, such as poaching, in member states from circumventing those license revocations in another state.

TRAPPING: Hawaii banned the use of barbaric steel-jawed leghold traps and restricted the use of snares and other body-crushing traps in residential areas where pets fall victim and often attempt to chew off their own limbs to escape the painful devices.

CHAINING DOGS: Connecticut and Illinois put limits on the tethering of dogs outdoors during extreme weather, and Oregon restricted the time duration and length of tether for the chaining of dogs. Oregon’s law also set new standards for providing adequate shelter and bedding for dogs, an important upgrade that eliminates ambiguity and uncertainty in the existing law.

AG-GAG: Animal advocates have succeeded so far this year in preventing the passage of so-called “ag-gag” bills in all 11 states where they were introduced in 2013—Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyoming and Vermont. The legislation was written and advanced as part of an attempt to block undercover investigations by animal protection groups, mainly at factory farms. These investigations expose illegal and unethical activity at such facilities and are an important part of bringing factory farming abuses to light.

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