2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings™

Posted on December 13, 2011

Animal Legal Defense Fund Annual Study Ranks Laws Across the Country
Illinois Remains on Top, Mississippi Shows Most Improvement

Take action!A new in-depth survey of the animal protection laws of each state and territory in the U.S. confirms that there remain considerable differences in the strength and comprehensiveness of each jurisdiction’s laws.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) sixth annual report, 2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings – the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind – is based on a detailed comparative analysis of the animal protection laws of each jurisdiction, researching fourteen broad categories of provisions throughout more than 4,000 pages of statutes. Each jurisdiction received a numerical ranking based upon its combined score and was grouped into a top, middle or bottom tier. The ranking also highlights the best five and worst five states overall.

>> Download the full report (PDF)

>> Download the state rankings map

2011 U.S. rankings map

For the fourth consecutive year, Illinois held the top spot alone in the rankings due to its wide array of animal protection laws. Mississippi showed the most improvement, moving from 50th – and one of the Worst Five states – last year to 30th overall this year. Mississippi’s improved ranking was due partly to its enactment of a felony penalty for repeated cruelty and neglect (three states – Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota – do not have any felony penalties for animal abuse) and for authorizing mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders. Guam showed the second best improvement, moving up eighteen spots to 34th in the nation. Arkansas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Oregon and Texas all improved their scores, in part, from new laws that allow animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders. California, Maryland, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Washington added or strengthened laws restricting access to animals following an animal abuse conviction. Many other states moved up in this year’s report as well. Kentucky, once again, had the notorious distinction of having the weakest laws of any state in the nation–a position it has held for the past five years.

“These annual reports identify what each state and territory is doing with respect to their animal protection laws,” says Stephan Otto, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report. “Since ALDF began publishing these rankings in 2006, there has been a marked advance in the laws of many states and territories.”

In reviewing the results from ALDF’s rankings reports over the past five years, more than half of all states and territories experienced a significant improvement in their animal protection laws:

  • 27% improved 2-10%
  • 16% improved 10-50%
  • 11% improved by greater than 50%:
    Alaska:  53%
    Utah:  56%
    Guam:  63%
    Mississippi:  66%
    Puerto Rico:  91%
    Arkansas:  95%

These improvements included, among others:

  • Expanding the range of protections for animals
  • Providing stiffer penalties for offenders
  • Better standards of care for animals
  • Reporting of animal cruelty cases by veterinarians and other professionals
  • Mitigation and recovery of the costs associated with the care and rehabilitation of mistreated animals
  • Mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders
  • Bans on ownership of animals following convictions
  • Allowing animals to be included in domestic violence protective orders

One of the frequently-used measures for gauging the state of animal protection laws in the U.S. has been the presence or absence of felony-level penalties for the most egregious types of abuse. Since ALDF released its first U.S. rankings report in 2006, there has been noticeable progress in this indicator. Over the past five years:

  • Six jurisdictions added – for the first time – felony penalties for cases involving extreme animal cruelty or torture: Alaska, Arkansas, Guam, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah
  • Six strengthened their existing felony animal cruelty laws: Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Puerto Rico
  • Eight added felonies for repeated or aggravated animal neglect: Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Puerto Rico
  • Six jurisdictions made repeated abandonment, or abandonment that results in the death or serious injury of an animal, a felony: Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Puerto Rico
  • Three added felonies for the sexual assault of an animal: Alaska, Puerto Rico, Tennessee

“We are very optimistic for additional progress in the upcoming year,” added Otto. “Nevertheless, even as many jurisdictions are making substantial steps forward, others are unfortunately not. Yet irrespective of where each jurisdiction currently ranks, every state and territory has ample room for improvement.”

Sizable majorities of all households now include at least one animal, and polls continue to show that the public cares deeply about these companions and their welfare.  ALDF’s goals in these ongoing reviews are to continue to shed light on this important issue, to compare and contrast the differences and similarities in the provinces and territories, and to garner support for both the strengthening and enforcement of animal protection laws throughout the country.

ALDF encourages those who care about the welfare and protection of animals to contact their elected officials about the importance of having strong, comprehensive laws in this field, and to alert law enforcement should they ever witness animal abuse or neglect.

For additional
information, see our Model Animal Protection Laws collection and Animal Protection Laws of the USA & Canada compendium.

2011 State Animal Protection Laws Rankings Maps

PDF, Black & White | Download Map
PDF, Color | Download Map
JPG, Black & White | Download Map
JPG, Color | Download Map

Annual Animal Protection Laws Rankings Reports

United States: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | Current
Canada: 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012


8 thoughts on “2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings™

  1. Lana Lockhart says:

    I’m not to sure where yu re getting you information from, but it is WRONG. I have personally worked in AC’s in two (2) states. First in MIchigan, where they still have gas chambers and will kill a dog even if it looks like a bully breed even with a court order telling them not to. Someone needs to check into Detroit Animal Control, and aslo Kent County Animal Control. Those two have no liking for the laws that everyone else has to abide by. The second is that you have Wyoning as a bad state…have you been to any of the shelters in that state? Probably not. Before you throw out statistics that I can probably shoot down, get your facts straight, go to these places and look for yourselves

  2. ALDF Legislative Affairs says:

    Each of our annual reports is based principally on the information contained in our annually-updated compendium of animal protection laws — Animal Protection Laws of the USA & Canada. The primary goals of our reports are to raise awareness of the general issue of animal protection laws in the states and territories, to compare and contrast the differences and similarities across both countries, to spur further discussion about the laws, and to garner support for both their strengthening and enforcement. As is described within the reports themselves, these studies are limited to an analysis of the general strength and comprehensives of the animal protection laws, not in their enforcement. More information on the methodology used in the 2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings report is available on page 16 of the report.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you again for this always invaluable tool for all of us wanting to improve our state’s laws and see how we lag behind or do a bit better than other states.

  4. Beth Marino says:

    That was a nice generic answer to the email from the person saying that their data/info is incorrect. How about ALDF launching an investigation into the states/counties that were mentioned in her reply. That’s what the organization is supposed to do!!

  5. Citizens concerned about animal abuse in their communities should visit ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program page for further assistance.

  6. John says:

    Our pups were murdered Christmas day in lewisport Kentucky. The sheriff of Hancock county ky did nothing about it. Kentucky is a disgrace when it comes to animal rights.

  7. Jacqueline Muth says:

    Dear John of Kentucky,

    My beloved Billy Boy was killed by a Conibear trap in Mt. Sterling, Ky. The man who killed my baby went onto to Paris where he killed yet another dog. All this has happened in the past two months. Please contact me if you’re interested in becoming an activist or sign my petition JUSTICE FOR BILLY BOY petition. I can be reached at hypatia1920@yahoo.com.

  8. Leo Maxwell says:

    I disagree with your objectives. I am not for animal abuse however I am also not for people abuse and bankruptcy. The current onslaught of remittance based seizure groups such as DEHFR, GG etc do not help horses unless there is a financial reward. Maryland is controlled by HSUS..however they were finally defeated in a bonified court case.

    Minimals equine standards for care? U of Davis has published a manual that has taken European studies out of context and have applied them to horses. Of what value is that?

    Of course this will not be posted but at least you can read it.

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