2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings

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Short Description:
This report ranks each U.S. state according to its animal cruelty laws. This ranking is released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) on an annual basis. This year the five states with the best animal protection laws are: Illinois, Maine. Michigan, Oregon, and California. The worst are: South Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, and Kentucky.

From Study Summary:

"For the fourth consecutive year, Illinois held the top spot alone in the rankings due to its wide array of animal protection laws. Mississippi showed the most improvement, moving from 50th – and one of the Worst Five states – last year to 30th overall this year. Mississippi’s improved ranking was due partly to its enactment of a felony penalty for repeated cruelty and neglect (three states – Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota – do not have any felony penalties for animal abuse) and for authorizing mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders. Guam showed the second best improvement, moving up eighteen spots to 34th in the nation. Arkansas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Oregon and Texas all improved their scores, in part, from new laws that allow animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders. California, Maryland, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Washington added or strengthened laws restricting access to animals following an animal abuse conviction. Many other states moved up in this year’s report as well. Kentucky, once again, had the notorious distinction of having the weakest laws of any state in the nation—a position it has held for the past five years."

"One of the frequently-used measures for gauging the state of animal protection laws in the U.S. has been the presence or absence of felony-level penalties for the most egregious types of abuse. Since ALDF released its first U.S. rankings report in 2006, there has been noticeable progress in this indicator. Over the past five years:"
  • Six jurisdictions added – for the first time – felony penalties for cases involving extreme animal cruelty or torture: Alaska, Arkansas, Guam, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah
  • Six strengthened their existing felony animal cruelty laws: Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Puerto Rico
  • Eight added felonies for repeated or aggravated animal neglect: Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Puerto Rico
  • Six jurisdictions made repeated abandonment, or abandonment that results in the death or serious injury of an animal, a felony: Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Puerto Rico
  • Three added felonies for the sexual assault of an animal: Alaska, Puerto Rico, Tennessee

Spot Check Number: 1912
Sponsor: Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Researcher/Author: Stephan Otto
Animal Type: Various
Research Method: Case Study
Geographic Region: United States National
Population Descriptors: United States
Year Conducted: 2011
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