Annual Study Names 2013’s “Top Five States to be an Animal Abuser”

Posted on December 16, 2013

Animal Legal Defense Fund Releases Year-End Report Ranking State Animal Cruelty Laws

For immediate release:


Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

SAN FRANCISCO — Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming are 2013’s five best states to abuse animals, according to the latest report released by the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). Following a detailed comparative analysis of the animal protection laws, ALDF has released a year-end report ranking all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories for the general comprehensiveness and relative strength of their respective animal protection laws. The report analyzes more than 4,000 pages of statutes, tracks fifteen broad categories of provisions, and reveals the states where animal law has real teeth—and calls out those, like Kentucky (the single worst state in the nation for animal protection laws, for the seventh year in a row) where animal abusers get off easy. ALDF’s eighth annual state rankings report is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind.


Why are these states in the dog house when it comes to getting tough on animal abuse? Legislative weaknesses in the bottom-tiered states include inadequate standards of basic care for an animal, limited authority given to humane officers, and lack of mandatory reporting when veterinarians suspect animal cruelty. On the other end of the spectrum, this year’s “best five states for animals” list includes Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, and California, who demonstrated the strongest commitment to combating animal cruelty through their laws. For the sixth consecutive year, Illinois was the very best of the best for the strength of its laws protecting animals. The states with the biggest changes include North Dakota, which added, for the first time, felony penalties for cases involving extreme animal cruelty or torture. Arizona was the most improved state this year, and was one of six states that strengthened its cost of care provisions. Other state improvements include adding felony penalties for animal neglect.

ALDF released its first rankings report in 2006; since then more than half of all states and territories have made a significant improvement in their animal protection laws. Yet there remains room for growth in every jurisdiction. “Each state and territory has plenty of room for improvement,” says Stephen Wells, executive director for ALDF. “We hope lawmakers recognize the need for serious progress in animal protection laws across the nation. Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for animal protection do.”

The full report, including a rankings map, chart, and details about each state, is available at ALDF’s complete “Animal Protection Laws of the U.S.A. and Canada” compendium,on which the report is based, is available at ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

Take Action

Improve your state’s animal protection laws! Contact your state representatives today.
Take Action Button

20 thoughts on “Annual Study Names 2013’s “Top Five States to be an Animal Abuser”

  1. Kathy McCoy says:

    To say I’m extremely disappointed in my state is an understatement. I feel like I write to my representatives all the time. They’re obviously NOT listening. I give to our state humane society for my birthday present & Christmas present. Not that these other organizations r on a state level, but I donate monthly to the ALDF, the HSUS & the ASPCA. I have also donated to various horse sanctuaries, the Farm Sanctuary, & the Humane Society International. I also try to help wild animals. I feel like I make an effort, in many ways, for all animals. I did not vote for the egits in my state & will not, because they obviously don’t care about the animals. They care more about not stepping on farm factory “farmers” toes. I suppose it’s the farm factories that got them into office. And/or “farmers” that abuse animals that want ag gag laws in place. I don’t know what else to say at the moment, other than I am so FED UP!!!!! However, I will KEEP TRYING!!

    1. Carrie says:

      Hi Jamie, I hope you don’t mind my saying, but I hope you look into the organizations you donate to for future to ensure your money is going to directly help the animals and the welfare laws. The organizations you mention all have very high-paying CEOs and other administrators, so a very large percentage of our money isn’t even going towards developing a solution for the troubled states. My home state is IL but the state in which I reside is NM… scary. Thanks for caring!

  2. jami nelson says:

    I’m pleased to say that it looks like wv seems to be taking animal cruelty seriously …thank you wv for finally listening to us and doing something about it!!!

    1. steve tennant says:

      Getting animal law passed in WV is not an easy thing and usually takes anywhere from 3-5 years. WV is lucky to have a strong advocacy for animals with The Federation of Humane Organizations WV or FOHOWV. To keep informed on animal issues in WV go to Humane Lobby day in Charleston in February and FOHO Conference at Flatwoods in April, info on both on the website.

  3. Kathy Aronoff says:

    Southern Nevada has tried to improve with Domestic Animals however there are too many cases and not enough enforcement – Policies that are in place are not being sentenced to the fullest extent due to overcrowding – Just last week a 22 yr old POS stabbed his dog over and over because he “LIKED” hurting dogs – Lets see how long he gets

  4. Kelly says:

    Even though some of our states seem to be improving in the animal cruelty laws, it still needs to improve to harsher and stricter laws. It will not be easy but us advocates need to bond together in all states and not give up! Hopefully it will all come together at some point.



  6. cindy roth says:

    I have just had to deal with cruelty to my German Shepherd who now has only 3 legs and has endured a lot of pain and suffering. Seems no one here in Illionis really gives a S… If you know of something I can do please enlighten me.

  7. Animal Worker says:

    It also helps if you have the DA on board. I live3 and work in California and the rules vary wildly form area to area. Also the District Attorneys in some areas do not like to take animal cases because they feel that it is a waste of time.
    I have seen DA’s dismiss egregious animal abuse cases for minor things that would have not affected the prosecution of the case but because the case is not something that will grab headlines and furhter their career, they are not at all interested.
    I even had one Assistant District Attorney tell me that the law I was trying to prosecute someone on was stupid and even he would not follow that law. How do you combat his kind of stupid? It runs all through the system.

  8. Hannah says:

    What can we do besides contact our representatives? South Carolina’s animal abuse laws actually EXCLUDE hunting dogs. The treatment of hunting dogs in the south is abysmal, but what can we do about it besides continuing to rescue as much as possible? How can we make animal treatment a central issue in political campaigns??

    1. ALDF says:

      Use the take action link above.

  9. Mel Barlow says:

    I fully understand that Ky sucks on this issue, as other advocates and I have been pushing for stronger laws for years. However, since SD is the only state wo a felony law, I’m not sure why we’re in last place yet again. It’s just so disheartening!

  10. Barbara Moore says:

    I will review laws. Though animal abuse in Kentucky was a felony. Thanks for waking me up.

  11. virginia errico says:

    Please check out what has been going on for a long time now without the help of any officials from Forks Washington. Olympia Animal Sanctuary has over 100 dogs in a warehouse which are not being cared for. Founder Steve Markwell has been doing nothing to help,as the police, mayor and so on! The dogs are in an unheated building, no food or water, never cleaned just kept in small plastic crates. Please check Facebooks Dogs Deserve Better for much more info. Please spread the word.

  12. Gumboz1953 says:

    Very surprised about my home state, Louisiana. Especially with that poor tiger, “Tony,” still caged at that darn truck stop.

  13. geri aron says:

    I hope this report is in all daily papers and gets much publicity so the legislators in the worst states will wake up and do something. We have a great organization here in New Mexico, Animal Protection of New Mexico and its legislative arm, New Mexico Voters but they can do only so much if the legislators kill or table important bills…Wake up New Mexico and all other states…We are supposed to be a Humane Country, ain’t we?

  14. John Colyer says:

    We can all begin to change the way our politicians relate to Animal welfare, by voting them in or out. If we are to change the way all animals are treated we must enforce and change the laws. Many of society’s problems are created through Animal abuse, beginning at an early age, and not having stiff penlties for those who abuse and maintain pool living conditions, ie, “puppy |Mills”. Politicians are ignorant to most of these concerns, so we must change that mindset. Begin locally with you own city and state, so the rest will follow. Thank you.

  15. dee says:

    I was not surprised to find that NM was on the top 5 states mentioned in this report. Having been involved in promoting the humane treatment of animals for many years in NM, I do not see much change occuring in some areas of NM. The legislators need to do their job and see that animals are protected. Even some so called rescue groups in NM need to do better. Some appear to be in it for the dollar they can make. What a shame. Still, we do our part and continue to have a heart for all animals and will call this to the attention of elected officials in NM.

  16. Kim Minor says:

    We need an ANIMAL ABUSERS REGISTRY NATIONALY, to prevent future atrosities against animals …..

  17. Kim Minor says:

    COLORADO, has made new stricter laws and Im proud of what weve done to get this far. We are on the Top Tier….

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.