This has been a good summer for animal laws. New York just created the country’s first registry for animal abusers, a significant step to protect animals from abuse. By checking the registry, shelters and other agencies who are adopting out animals can determine if a prospective owner has been convicted of animal abuse in the past, ensuring that animals are more likely to go to happy and safe homes.
Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania just signed H.B. 82 into law, which requires accused animal abusers to pay for the daily upkeep of their seized animals. Animal shelters often struggle to cover the medical expenses of seized animals, and now Pennsylvania is requiring the defendants to pay up to $15 a day for the upkeep, including shelter, food and other basic needs. If animals require extraordinary care, the accused may be required to pay more in order to support treatment.
New York and Pennsylvania are just two examples of states that are attempting to ensure that their animal residents are protected under the law. Each year, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ranks states according to their animal cruelty laws. Check out the list below to see how your state ranks.
California: Prohibits intensive confinement of animals on factory farms.
New Jersey: Strong laws against animal fighting and keeping dangerous exotic animals as pets.
Oregon: Same as New Jersey, plus strong puppy mill laws and laws against extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.
Illinois: Strong laws against animal cruelty and fighting and against private possession of dangerous exotic animals.
Massachusetts: Strong laws against animal fighting and ban on greyhound racing.
Mississippi: There are no felony penalties for cockfighting, just slap-on-the-wrist punishments.
North Dakota: One of only two states with no felony-level penalties for egregious acts of cruelty; generally weak anti-cruelty laws.
South Carolina: No felony penalties for cockfighting.
Idaho: Some of the weakest anti-cruelty laws in the country.
South Dakota: One of only two states with no felony-level penalties for egregious acts of cruelty, and some of the weakest laws against cockfighting in the country.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the good news is that more than half of all states experienced a significant improvement in their animal protection laws in the last five years. These improvements included increasing penalties for abuse offenders, requiring veterinarians to report animal cruelty cases, and including animals in domestic violence protective orders.
Now for the bad news. The ALDF reports some pretty shocking laws in certain states. For example, in Kentucky, veterinarians are prohibited from reporting suspected cruelty or animal fighting. In some other states, courts do not have the power to restrict future animal ownership after a cruelty conviction. Of those states, only Iowa allows judges to require mental health evaluations or counseling for convicts, despite the fact that animal abuse is one of the best predictors that a person will commit violence against humans. In North Dakota and Kentucky, courts cannot order cruelty convicts to give up the animals they harmed, abandoning the creatures to suffer further at the hands of their abusers.
Thankfully as a nation we are moving in the right direction. In 2012, there were many advances in animal protection laws. California banned “hounding” of wildlife, New Jersey banned horse slaughter, Ohio regulated exotic pet ownership, and Tennessee now considers cruelty to livestock a felony. Let’s hope this trend continues.
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