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What’s the Best–and Worst–State in Terms of Animal Protection?

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We just received a news release about the best–and worst–states in terms of animal protection. Compared to last year’s results, the 2017 findings had a few surprises, both good and bad.

Best and Worst States for Animal Protection

The 12th annual year-end report was released by The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals. Looking at animal protection laws for for all 50 states, the report named Illinois the best place for animal protection for the 10th year in a row. Illinois was followed by Oregon (2), California (3), Maine (4), and Rhode Island (5).

According to the report, the worst state for animal protection was Kentucky, still in the #50 position for the 11th consecutive year. It trails Iowa (49), Wyoming (48), Utah (47), and North Dakota (46) as the state with the weakest animal protection laws.

How the Rankings Are Made

The Rankings are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws including over 4,000 pages of statutes. This is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind, and tracks which states are taking animal protection seriously.

Most Improved State

Pennsylvania is the most-improved state this year, jumping 20 places up to number 24. This achievement is thanks to major improvements like a new felony provision for first-time offenders of aggravated animal cruelty (including torture), and granting civil immunity to veterinarians who report suspected animal abuse.

Hot Car Legislation

We were also happy to see the increase in states that protect animal lovers who rescue animals from hot cars. This year’s Rankings Report shows more states granting civil immunity for removing animals from hot vehicles. Immunity laws ensure that people who rescue animals from vehicles in emergency situations are not then faced with lawsuits from owners. Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon all enacted these “reckless endangerment” provisions this year. In all, more than 25 states now have some type of “hot cars” law on the books.

More than half of all states significantly improved their animal protection laws in the last five years. Improvements come in many forms including stiffer penalties for offenders, stronger standards of care for animals, animal cruelty reporting by veterinarians, mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders, banning animal ownership following cruelty convictions and including animals in domestic violence protective orders.

“Unfortunately, laws protecting animals can vary widely from state to state,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Our annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings provides a tool for animal advocates, shelters and even legislators to gauge the relative effectiveness of their state’s animal protection laws and provides guidance for making positive changes.”

Read the Full Report

The full report, including details about each state, is available at for download (PDF).

For more information, please visit

Paris Permenter
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