2015 Report Released: Best & Worst Animal Protection Laws by State — Ranked #1 – #50

Posted on December 16, 2015

Illinois Ranked #1 with the Strongest Protection—Kentucky Ranked #50 with the Weakest Animal Protection

For immediate release:

Contact:
Natalia Lima, Natalia@PawsPR.com, 201 679 7088

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the premiere legal organization for animals, released the 10th annual year-end report (2015), ranking the animal protection laws of all 50 states.

For the eighth year in a row, Illinois takes first place—followed by Oregon (2), Maine (3), California (4), and Michigan (5). Kentucky holds steady at fiftieth place for the ninth year in a row, followed by Iowa (49), Wyoming (48), Utah (47), and North Dakota (46) rounding out states with the weakest animal protection laws.

New Jersey (9) was the most-improved state in 2015, jumping twenty-eight places in rank, in part, by passing a comprehensive dogfighting law that increased penalties and made dogfighting a RICO (racketeering) offense. All 50 states have felony provisions for animal fighting, and now eight states make fighting a RICO offense.

The report also highlights legislation allowing for animals to be included in protective orders in cases of domestic violence. Ohio (27) enacted such a provision this year, bringing the total to 29 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“Protective orders are crucial for removing both human and animal victims from the cycle of domestic violence, because human victims are often afraid to leave their pets behind,” says Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We applaud those states that recognize the clear Link between violence towards humans and animals by allowing judges to include animals in domestic violence protective orders—and we hope other states continue to follow suit.”

Other notable changes this year included Oklahoma’s (17) and Pennsylvania’s (42) increased penalties for harming a police animal, Colorado’s (8) increased animal fighting penalties, Delaware’s (12) new prohibition on leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle, and Tennessee’s (22) new law providing civil immunity for forcibly removing an animal from a hot car. Seventeen states and the Virgin Islands now have laws that prohibit reckless conduct, such as leaving an animal in a hot car.

A study of the past five years of ALDF’s Ranking Reports shows more than three quarters of all states and territories have significantly improved their animal protection laws.

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.

The full report, including details about each state, is available at for download (PDF). ALDF’s complete “Animal Protection Laws of the U.S.A. and Canada” compendium, on which the report is based, is available at aldf.org/compendium.


28 thoughts on “2015 Report Released: Best & Worst Animal Protection Laws by State — Ranked #1 – #50

  1. susan huls says:

    I HOPE THE PEOPLE OF IOWA AND KENTUCKY DO THE QUICKEST THINGS TO REMEMDY THIS SAD SITUATION.

  2. susan huls says:

    The people of Iowa and Kentucky should be ashamed of themselves.

    1. Barbara Brown says:

      I am totally shocked at Kentucky! We are moving there in a couple months and I planned on fostering dogs. I am totally ashamed at my new state and hope to help make some changes.

  3. Ken says:

    Thank you for posting the Animal Protection Laws by State results. I am pleased to see my state, California, in the top tier although we still have a long way to go with our animal cruelty laws. I am just curious how New Jersey is most improved, given Chris Christie’s veto of the pig crate ban? This was a politically motivated move that has continued the horrendous torture of these intelligent and wonderful sentient beings. It seems to me like New Jersey should have moved down in the ratings. Even though the people of New Jersey supported the ban, Christie vetoed the bill to placate the Iowa meat (aka ultimate animal cruelty) complex industrial complex. http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/28/politics/christie-pig-ban/ Thank you again for ALL you do, you are heroes!! Ken

    1. Nuschler says:

      Uhhh the pig ban was for states like Iowa.

      You can find NJ new laws here:

      https://www.animallaw.info/statute/nj-cruelty-consolidated-cruelty-statutes

      Also in 2013, NJ passed Patrick’s law–a tough law against animal cruelty.

      http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2013/08/patricks-law-is-now-law-in-New-Jersey-080813.html

      1. Ken says:

        The bill was to ban the crating of pigs in New Jersey, not Iowa. Please see the article. The New Jersey governor, politically pandering to the Iowa agricultural industry (to advance his own political career), vetoed the bill that would have banned pig crating in New Jersey.

        1. Ken says:

          This is the article to which I refer. The bill would have banned pig crating in New Jersey. It had strong support from the people of New Jersey, the governor vetoed it. http://www.wsj.com/articles/gov-chris-christie-vetoes-pig-crate-ban-1417223391

  4. cgrobin from Orlando says:

    Florida should lose points for not only allowing greyhound racing, but turning a blind eye to drugging dogs and subsidizing the industry.

    1. June Nichols says:

      Florida should move down since it allowed an uncontrolled bear hunt that brought down almost double the “quota” that was allowed. They still allow shooting of stray cats. Their pounds still have a very high kill rate with BSL still practiced widely throughout the state. Areas that are known for dog fighting continue to thrive because current laws are not enforced. Florida is not the worst but it is not in any acceptable condition.

  5. Lois Burkett says:

    I noticed that New Jersey moved to #9 in the rankings
    but still has a bear hunt in effect. Hunters are permitted to kill nursing sows, their cubs, young bears. They may baite the bears and use tree stands. As you might be aware the animals suffer terribly during thiese encounters. Happy to learn about the protections NJ enacted but the state officials have a lot of eork remaining in other areas. The vast majority of NJ residents are against the bear hunt.

  6. Beth Weekes says:

    I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY THAT THE ENTIRE USA SHOULD BE ASHAMED. THIS COUNTRY THAT CLAIMS TO BE SO EVOLVED IS A SAD DELUSIONAL JOKE WITH THE WAY COMPANION ANIMALS ARE TREATED. THE FOOD INDUSTRY IS A WHOLE OTHER SITUATION AND I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO GO THERE, IT’S A DIFFERENT BEAST, SO TO SPEAK. WHEN PEOPLE GET AWAY WITH BEATING, STARVING, TORTURING ANYTHING THAT DEPENDS ON IT FOR SURVIVAL IS A PERSON THAT I WILL HAPPILY PULL THE SWITCH ON THE ELECTRIC CHAIR IF NOBODY ELSE HAS THE BALLS. ANIMAL ABUSE IS THE LOWEST FORM OF BEHAVIOR, USUALLY DONE BY PSYCHOPATHS AND THEY WORK THEIR WAY UP THE FOOD CHAIN TO YOUR CHILDREN. HOW SICK DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO ENJOY INFLICTING PAIN? I PERSONALLY AM EMBARRASSED THAT THE USA IS SO RETARDED AS A WHOLE. THE FBI IS FINALLY GETTING IT, CATCH UP UNITED STATES!

  7. sharon jensen says:

    I live in southern Texas. I support my local Animal Shelter but what can we do to help this organization. You do awesome work but so much more is still needed. Are there local chapters in various states? In Texas City they still allow dogs to be tied to trees as long as the rope is (I think 6′ long) Animal control says they can only enforce what laws they have.

  8. PLEASE contact your local, county and/or state to pass a bill requiring pet owners to bring their pets indoors during inclement weather (heat and cold). Philadelphia, PA is one good example. One phone call can save thousands of pets from a miserable death or amputation of frozen limbs.

  9. Ceci M. says:

    Glad to see Florida still green, especially
    with such a knucklehead governor. I’ve
    got my fingers crossed things change for
    the better, because we still have a long
    way to go. Agreed on greyhound racing, but horse racing is up there too, plus dog and rooster fighting, and a couple of others. Kentucky you’re sickening, you and your gun toting, wolf killing mates 😠. New
    Jersey keep fighting for the bears, congrats
    on your new spot!

  10. Patricia says:

    I live in Iowa and it sickens me to know that our state is ranked one of the lowest for animal protection laws! This is so shameful and heartbreaking that Iowa’s animal protection laws are so weak! So many innocent animals suffer everyday from horrible cruelty and we must do everything we can to help these animals! We must stand up for all animals, even if you must stand up alone.

  11. Noel Rome says:

    New Jersey should be penalized for it’s bear hunt.
    93+% of it’s citizens are against it. And it is allowed anyway.
    And I believe that leg hold traps for other animals are to be allowed. This is awful.

  12. PATRICK says:

    CHRIS CHRISTY,HE KNOWS ALOT ABOUT PIG,S; PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE,”MAKES ME LAUGH!! WHY DON,T MODERATORS ASK THE CANDIDATES ABOUT THEIR VIEWS ON ANIMALS,AS WELL AS THE POLICE PRACTICES IN THIS SO-CALLED CIVILIZED SOCIETY??? GOD BLESS,PATRICK

  13. Lynn Johns says:

    Florida shouldn’t be green. They are the epicenter of greyhound predation. The lower half of the state is involved in horse theft and butchery for the black market trade in horse meat for dinner.

    1. Nancy says:

      I was surprised to see FL green too. Animals should not be used for entertainment and or money making. Legally or illegally.

  14. Beverly says:

    I really thought my state was up there! ;(
    Kentucky…Go figure!! Problem is they dont care about animal protection etc..But God forbid, mess with their race horses and watch out!!!!

    1. Beverly says:

      My state is Washington

  15. Laurel Stephens says:

    Being from Iowa, you have no idea how badly we want to change this. There’s one animal advocacy group, the Iowa Humane Alliance I think… they offered seminars on how to change animal laws, but aren’t actually changing laws, maybe locally… Regardless, we need help! There are amazing shelters and there are horror shows. We have puppy mills and backyard breeders everywhere. We have factory farms that are ghastly. How do we fix this? How can we make this stop?

  16. Denton Fender says:

    Way to go New Jersey!!!!

  17. Nuschler says:

    What helps more than anything are the states that require dog licensing…I don’t mean just a rabies tag…but a registration for EVERY dog in your possession. Maximum of ten dogs–when there is a litter. Cheaper tags for spay/neuter—and free spay/neuter clinics. For the guys who INSIST on keeping dogs intact the 2 year tags are $150–neutered? $7 for two years. So almost NO rescue dogs…all dogs are wanted. So many idiots don’t want the gov’mint interfering with owning 25 dogs! You can’t keep up with vaccines, heart worm prevention, flea control, vet bills. So if folks can’t be responsible our furbuddies should have the state looking out for them! If your state does NOT have dog licensing/tags…get your legislature to pass them. The money goes to better shelters, more human workers etc.

  18. LES HOFFER says:

    Congratulations to Illinois and Oregon for your leadership in animal protection.
    Setting the benchmark high will keep the other states being encouraged to strengthen their laws.

  19. L E Payne says:

    I do not understand NH’s standing. I am very proud of the way NH stands up for & protects all animals. We are a “GREEN” animal protective state. Every town is required to have an animal control officer, & they all take their job very seriously. Our animal protection can actually be a little overly protective. It is also a law that in weather/disaster emergencies requiring evacuation… animal are NOT to be left home. They are to be crated w/bowls, meds, toys, food etc., & taken with. There are special temporary shelters for both animal (no matter what the animal is) & human evacuatees, across the board. The State’s Vets have literally been James Herriot incarnated. This state takes animal welfare VERY seriously. If these people are ferreting out animal abuse, in this state… they seriously need to report it to the proper authorities, because NH will come down on violators with a sledge hammer. I have lived just outside Concord (the capitol) since 1960. We take animal welfare very seriously.

  20. Roseann Trezza says:

    You state that New Jersey is the most-improved state by passing comprehensive dogfighting laws.
    It may be most improved legislatively but not by investigatory agencies which are lax. With regard to the success of dogfighting cases, it has been a joint investigation by the FBI, the NJ State Police, Prosecutor’s Office, etc.
    The Associated Humane Societies has many cases handed to the NJ SPCA for which NOTHING WAS DONE!

  21. Elle W says:

    I am originally from Iowa and am saddened and disgusted that it ranks #49. The state representatives are clearly afraid to take a stand against the factory farmers and puppy millers who are not willing to treat animals humanely if it cuts into their profits at all. Even though I no longer live in Iowa, I will always consider myself an Iowan. I hope other Iowans are as ashamed of this ranking as I am.

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