Press Release

Oregon Ranked Best State for Animal Protection Laws

2023 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report Released


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — For the first time, Oregon ranks as the top state for animal protection laws according to the annual U.S. State 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 18th annual year-end report (2023) assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each U.S. state and territory’s animal protection laws, and ranks them accordingly.

Oregon is followed by Maine (2), Illinois (3), Massachusetts (4), and Colorado (5). In 2023, North Dakota sank to the bottom of the rankings in 50th place, with Alabama (49), Idaho (48), South Carolina (47), and Kentucky (46) rounding out the states with the weakest animal protection laws.

Oregon earned its top spot in the rankings because state lawmakers have led the way in passing important animal protection measures. For example, Oregon explicitly permits courts to include animals in domestic violence protection orders, ensuring that victims of domestic violence can retain custody of their beloved companion animals when fleeing abusive situations. Also in recognition of the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty, Oregon’s laws provide sentence enhancements for animal abusers who have previously been convicted of domestic violence or child abuse. Oregon also requires veterinarians to report aggravated cruelty to animals and grants them immunity for doing so. Finally, Oregon has a mandatory post-conviction possession ban law, which prohibits anyone who has been convicted of an animal cruelty offense from owning or possessing certain species of animals for a set period of time: five years following a misdemeanor conviction, and 15 years following a felony animal cruelty conviction.

Even in Oregon, there is room for improvement. For example, although veterinarians are required to report aggravated animal cruelty, they are not yet required to report other, lesser forms of animal abuse and neglect. Additionally, although Oregon does have a mandatory post-conviction possession ban law, it only applies to domestic animals and animals who are the same genus as the animal who was the subject of the animal cruelty conviction, instead of applying generally to all species of animal.

A new trend highlighted in the report is “bond-or-forfeit” laws, which help alleviate the financial burden on cities and counties caring for animals who have been seized pursuant to an animal cruelty case. It may take months or even years before a criminal case is fully adjudicated. During that time, the animal victims are often left in a type of legal limbo, being cared for by a local city or county shelter while still technically being the property of the defendant. The costs of caring for these animals accumulate quickly, especially if the animals require extensive veterinary treatment to recover from their neglect or abuse. “Bond-or-forfeit” laws resolve this issue by requiring the defendant to either post a bond covering the costs of caring for the animal or forfeit their property interest in the animal so they can be adopted out into a new, loving home.

“Each year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is encouraged to see many jurisdictions strengthening their animal protection laws to improve the well-being of animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Chris Green. “However, this annual evaluation shows that, regardless of rank, every state and territory still has room to improve, and additional legislative progress is needed to ensure that all animals are afforded the same level of protection across the country.”

The rankings track which states are taking animal protection seriously and are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws, including over 3,600 pages of statutes.

The full report, including details about each state, is available at

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