Which States Protect Their Pets the Best?


In its new report, the Animal Legal Defense Fund outlines which states do the best and worst job protecting their pets from harm.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has released its annual Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report highlighting the best and worst US states and territories when it comes to animal protection. Illinois tops the list for the 11th year in a row, and for the 12th consecutive year Kentucky finds itself at the bottom.

The rankings are based on 19 aspects of animal protection, including 5 new categories: the definition of “animal,” courtroom animal advocate programs, laws that allow individuals to rescue dogs from hot parked cars, civil nuisances abatement, and breed-specific legislation.

“Every year, we see more states enacting broader legal protections for animals,” ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “We have a long way to go until animals are fully protected under the legal system as they deserve, especially in the lowest-ranked states.…But as this year’s Ranking Report shows, step by step we as a nation are improving how the law treats animals.”

What’s With Kentucky?

The 2018 report found that despite its allowance for increased penalties for repeat abusers and/or animal hoarders, Kentucky has consistently failed to improve in the following areas:

  • Adequate definitions or standards of basic care
  • Restriction of animal ownership after a conviction
  • Mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction

One of the glaring problems in the state’s animal safety regulations is its lack in felony penalties for animal cruelty, as there are no felony provisions for neglect, sexual assault, or abandonment. In addition, Kentucky remains the only state to prohibit veterinarians from reporting suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or fighting. There are also no statutory provisions for post-conviction restitution or forfeiture, except in cases involving horses. This means that owners who have harmed their pet are not required to relinquish it. Because offenders are statistically more likely to commit the same crime again, this lack of accountability can lead to future instances.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s evaluation of Kentucky was consistent with its 2017 report’s results.

The Best and the Worst

The following states ranked as the 5 worst when it comes to protecting their animals:

Five Worst States

46. New Mexico

47. Wyoming

48. Iowa

49. Mississippi

50. Kentucky

At the other end of the spectrum, Illinois has remained at the top of the US rankings.

Five Best States

  • Illinois
  • Oregon
  • Maine
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts

With the creation of laws banning the sexual assault of animals, Louisiana (7) and Massachusetts (5) were among the most improved states in 2018. Besides Massachusetts, each of the 5 best states has remained consistent with the previous years. The ALDF hopes publishing these rankings may prompt states like Kentucky to improve their animal protection laws.

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