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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

sandy weinstein

Friday 19th of January 2018

i have called many times waiting for an officer to show up for a pet left in a hot car, they never showed, i waited over an hour while the person was in the store shopping, called several times 911, and was told it was not a priority, i told them it was the law.

sandy weinstein

Friday 19th of January 2018

NC has got to the one of the worst. they do not enforce even the federal laws against animal abuse. a sheriff was telling me he arrested a man on 8 counts of animal abuse, all were dead from starving, nothing was left but the bones tied up to chains. he got off with probation. this is a federal offense. the sheriff said he just got up and walked out of the court house, he was so mad. he said this happens all of the time in nc which is why officers wont do anything, b/c the judge throws it out or gives them probation. we also have tons of puppy mills and animal fighting rings.


Friday 19th of January 2018

Unfortunately Iowa being one of the worst does not surprise me in the least. Here there is also a 'hidden' puppy, kitten and many small animals- they are sold live at auctions. The people selling these animals are thought of as soft spoken, God fearing , simple living, I have personally seen and attended these auctions. They do not carry a license but the auctions occur. I have even been to auctions where they will come in and sell them alongside say a household (normal) auction. The puppy mills they do run are most often unlicensed and those that are are horrible. Just his week, there were two incidents of animal neglect and cruelty... one case a woman had 100s of guinea pigs, birds and other small animals, in another, it was cockfighting (which is very rare here) neither have been prosecuted. There have been a few advances but it took loud voices to get stiffer penalties, before there were virtually none.