State Animal Protection Laws Ranked: Illinois is #1, Mississippi #50


The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, has released the 14th annual U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report (2019), assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each state and territory’s animal protection laws.

For the 12th year in a row, Illinois takes first place — followed by Oregon (2), Colorado (3), Maine (4), and Rhode Island (5). For the first time in 13 years Kentucky is not ranked 50th. Instead, Mississippi now resides at the bottom with the weakest animal protection laws, followed by Iowa (49), New Mexico (48), Kentucky (47), and Wyoming (46).

The rankings in map form. Image credit ALDF.

New Hampshire (14) and Montana (37) were the most-improved states in 2019, in part because both states updated their laws regarding what procedures are followed after an animal has been seized from a suspected abuse or neglect situation. Montana now requires that a bond be posted covering the costs of caring for a seized animal up until trial. New Hampshire also enacted laws mandating post-conviction possession bans and laws prohibiting animal fighting paraphernalia — two of the year’s major trends. Last year New Hampshire was ranked at number 19, with Montana at 43.

Trends highlighted in the Rankings Report include possession bans and animal fighting paraphernalia laws. Possession bans are post-conviction remedies that allow courts to prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning or living in the same household as an animal. This is a continuing trend, and 12 states have created or strengthened their possession ban statutes over the past two years. A new trend this year was the emergence of animal fighting paraphernalia laws, which define and criminalize the possession of objects and instruments used to further animal fighting ventures. In 2019, four states adopted animal fighting paraphernalia laws.

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual ranking report highlights the disparity in our animal protection laws from state to state,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Few people know what animal protections laws exist in their state, and can be very surprised when tragedy strikes — and an animal is hurt or killed — and there are no laws to ensure justice for that animal.”

The U.S. Animal Protection State Laws Rankings Report lays out a clear path forward — for all jurisdictions — to strengthen legislation.

The rankings are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws, including over 3,000 pages of statutes. This is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind, and tracks which states are prioritizing animal protection and working to improve their laws.

The full report is available here.

Maps available for download: Web and TV.

Featured image: a pet spaniel on a walk. Image credit Wolf Gordon Clifton / Animal People, Inc.

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. Click to see author's profile.

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