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January 15, 2013

Where Does Your State Stand on Animal Welfare?

California was tops in the country, South Dakota was last, and Ohio had the fastest rise (with its passage of statutes in 2012 on exotic pets and puppy mills) in our “Humane State Ranking” report issued today. You can find those details and hundreds of others in our annual measurement of where our movement stands in terms of state animal welfare policies. To compile the report, our team reviews more than 4,000 state laws and examines 75 different animal welfare policy issues in 10 major categories, including laws relating to animal fighting, wildlife abuse, exotic pets, farm animals, puppy mills and equine protection.

Black bear in tree
A new law in California bans hound hunting
of bears and bobcats.

States in the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast have the strongest animal protection policies, while states in the Great Plains, the South and the northern Rockies are lagging. Several states, where The HSUS has used the ballot initiative process with great effect – namely Arizona and Colorado – are ahead of neighboring states, demonstrating that it’s not the public, but lawmakers, who are slowing progress for animal welfare.

California cemented its place and maintained the number one ranking by passing a number of new laws, including one to ban hound hunting of bears and bobcats. Tied for second place were Massachusetts, which banned gas chambers for euthanasia and also now includes protection of pets in some domestic violence protection orders, and Illinois, which banned the possession of shark fins in 2013.

There are still 10 states without felony-level penalties for cockfighting, clustered primarily in the South. There are six states with no restrictions on the possession of dangerous wild animals as pets (Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Nevada, West Virginia and Wisconsin). And there are just two states without felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty (North Dakota and South Dakota).

In 2012, The HSUS helped pass 74 new laws and regulations to protect animals and helped to defeat more than 100 harmful measures. In the last eight years, we’ve helped to pass about 700 laws. Most state legislatures are gearing up now for their 2013 sessions. We’re going to work even harder this year to ensure increased attention to animals and their legal protection.

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