HSUS Ranks Best, Worst States for Animal Protection Laws

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As we as a society become more conscious of nonhuman animals as unique beings with feelings, needs, and interests, one result of our evolving relationship with them is an increase in animal protection laws. Here in the United States, in addition to certain federal laws, each state has its own collection of laws related to animal welfare. But as evidenced by the spate of ballot measures in this most recent election, which solidified the "right" in several states to continue to abuse and exploit animals (such as North Dakota's refusal to pass a felony cruelty law), not all states are equal in their desire to protect animals.

Recently the Humane Society of the United States released its annual "Humane State Ranking," which rates all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. on their laws on a wide range of animal protection issues, from farmed animals to animal companions to wildlife. This year's report tracks states on 66 different types of animal protection legislation (for 66 possible points). The categories include:
  • animal fighting
  • animal cruelty
  • wildlife abuse
  • exotic pets
  • companion animals
  • animals in research
  • farm animals
  • fur and trapping
  • puppy mills
  • equine protection
According to the report, the states ranking the highest in animal protection laws this year include:

1. California
2. New Jersey
2. Oregon
4. Illinois
4. Massachusetts
6. Colorado
6. Maine
6. Virginia
6. Washington
10. New York
10. Vermont
10. District of Columbia

And those ranking lowest are:

42. Kentucky
42. Montana
42. Wyoming
45. Alabama
45. Missouri
47. Mississippi
48. North Dakota
48. South Carolina
50. Idaho
50. South Dakota

South Dakota and Idaho scored only an 8 and 9, respectively, out of 66 possible points (the top states ranked 46 and 40). For South Dakota, five of those eight laws relate to dog fighting. (South Dakota is one of just three states with no felony level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty.)

Reports like this one provide a useful springboard for discussing our conflicting and inconsistent relationship with animals, and for exploring ways we can make choices and create systems that do the most good and least harm for animals. And it also serves as yet more evidence that we desperately need humane education everywhere.

~ Marsha

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