Press Release

Illinois Ranked Second Best State for Animal Protection Laws

2021 Rankings Report Released: Animal Protection Laws by State


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — For the second year in a row, Maine ranks as the top state for animal protection laws according to the annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings 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 16th annual year-end Rankings Report (2021) 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 once again took 50th place, with Idaho (49), Mississippi (48), Alabama (47), and Utah (46) rounding out states with the weakest animal protection laws.

2021 state rankings map

Illinois earned its second-place ranking because state lawmakers have led the way in passing important animal protection measures. For example, Illinois state law has felony animal fighting provisions for all species, not just the few protected by law in some other states, and animal fighting is a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) offense, which gives prosecutors increased resources when seeking justice for abused animals as it was originally designed to combat a wide variety of organized criminal efforts. Protection orders may include animals, and state law uses an inclusive definition of “animal” and provides adequate definitions/standards of basic care. The law also provides for increased penalties for repeat animal abusers and animal hoarders and mandates the reporting of suspected animal cruelty by select non-animal-related agencies and veterinarians. Even in Illinois there is room for improvement, as courts are currently not required to prohibit convicted offenders from possessing or residing with animals.

Even in Maine there is room for improvement, as post-conviction forfeiture of animals is not mandatory for all animal cruelty crimes, and neither is requiring convicted offenders to pay restitution for the cost of caring for seized animals.

A new trend in 2021 was the enactment and strengthening of veterinary reporting laws and cross-reporting laws. Such laws either require or explicitly permit veterinarians or social service professionals to report suspected animal cruelty. In 2021 four states and one territory enacted veterinary reporting or cross-reporting laws. Another new trend was the enactment of laws addressing certification and training of humane officers. Only 16 states have laws specifying both training standards and enforcement powers for humane officers — laws that are necessary to ensure proper enforcement of animal protection laws. Thankfully that number is trending upward as three states enacted comprehensive humane officer laws in 2021.

“It is vital that we continue to strengthen our animal protection laws as animals are some of the most vulnerable members of society and are too often subjected to cruel mistreatment,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual Rankings Report helps legislators and advocates identify weak points in their states’ laws — and highlight strong models that can be used to address those weaknesses.”

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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