Press Release

Colorado Ranked Fourth Best State for Animal Protection Laws by Animal Legal Defense Fund

2022 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report Released


SAN FRANCISCO — For the third year in a row, Maine ranks as the top state for animal protection laws according to the annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals.

The longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind, the 17th annual year-end Rankings Report (2018) assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each U.S. state’s and territory’s animal protection laws, and ranks them accordingly.

Maine is followed by Illinois (2), Oregon (3), Colorado (4), and Rhode Island (5). New Mexico remained in 50th place for the third year in a row, with Mississippi (49), Alabama (48), Idaho (47), and Utah (46) rounding out states with the weakest animal protection laws.

Colorado earned its fourth place ranking because state lawmakers have led the way in passing important animal protection measures. For example, veterinarians must report suspected animal cruelty, and have immunity for doing so. The state also requires mandatory mental health evaluations and treatment for convicted animal cruelty offenders, and convicted offenders are prohibited from owning or possessing animals for a set period of time. Even in Colorado there is room for improvement, as sexual assault of an animal is still a misdemeanor on the first offense, and social service professionals are not required to report suspected animal cruelty.

Even in Maine there is room for improvement. There are several important sentencing measures which are currently left up to the court’s discretion rather than mandated, including restitution for animals’ costs of care, and psychological evaluations for convicted offenders.

A new trend highlighted in the Rankings Report is the inclusion of animals in protection orders. Courts may issue protection orders, more commonly known as restraining orders, to survivors of domestic violence in order to protect them from their abusers. Sadly, animals are too often used as tools of domestic violence; offenders with threaten to harm or kill animals in order to control or psychological abuse the animal’s guardian. Laws which permit animals to be included in protection orders allow survivors of domestic violence to safety flee their abusers, while also protecting their animals. Jurisdictions which enacted or strengthened existing animal protection orders in 2022 include Connecticut, Kentucky, Utah, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“Animal protection laws are critical to protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our society who are often not treated with the consideration they deserve under the law,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Chief Programs Officer Kera Melrose. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual Rankings Report provides a consistent measurement of legislative progress for animals nationwide and state to state — regardless of where a state falls in the ranks, there is always room for improvement.”

The rankings are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws including over 3,000 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

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