The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national anti-animal cruelty organization, recently released a report that examines how strong (or weak) each state’s animal cruelty laws are.
It’s a good way for animal lovers to see which states are protecting our precious critters, and which seem to be turning a blind eye to big problems in the way animals are treated under their laws.
It’s a long, thorough report, and we could spend all day diving into details. Instead, we’re going to focus on which states were highly ranked and which have a lot of work to do when it comes to how the law treats animals.
Who’s Been Good?
The top 5 are Maine, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, and Rhode Island, with Maine claiming the #1 spot.
All five have the option for felony penalties for animal cruelty, neglect, fighting, abandonment, sexual assault, and a host of other issues. They also have “adequate” to “strong” definitions and standards of basic care, meaning it’s easier for authorities to take on pet owners who are mistreating their animals—and remove the animal from their possession.
All five also have stricter guidelines on how an animal abuser is treated in court and what rights they may have regarding animals after their case is finished and punishment handed down.
For instance, Maine recently created the Courtroom Animal Advocate Program.
“Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) laws allow advocates—supervised law students or volunteer lawyers—to advocate for animal victims in criminal cruelty cases,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund says. “Volunteers appear in court and assist the judge by drafting briefs, conducting research, gathering information from veterinarians, animal control officers, and law enforcement officials, and making recommendations on behalf of the animal victim’s interests.
These states also make it much harder for a person convicted of animal abuse to get animals in the future, and they make it possible for the state to take the pet from the abuser before they’re convicted.
The Naughty List
The report lists the “worst” five states as New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Mississippi, and Alabama, with New Mexico holding the distinction of being the worst.
They all have weak laws on the books regarding animal cruelty and abuse, with it difficult to press felony charges in most cases. They also tend to make it harder for veterinarians and other citizens to report the abuse, especially while remaining anonymous.
These states also have narrower limitations on what animals are protected by their laws. For example, cockfighting still only carries a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $50.
2020 was the 15th year the report has been issued.
States were ranked on a broad range of criteria including, shelter requirements, veterinary reporting of abuse, psychological evaluations for abusers, and bans on abusers owning animals after a conviction.
You can find out where your state ranks below.
- Rhode Island
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
- New York
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- New Mexico