Press Release

State Animal Protection Laws Ranked: Oregon is #1, North Dakota #50

Animal Legal Defense Fund Publishes 2023 State Rankings Report


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, has released the 18th annual U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report (2023), ranking the animal protection laws of all 50 states.

For the first time, Oregon has claimed the top rank in animal protection laws — 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.

The most-improved jurisdiction in 2023 was Connecticut, which rose 20 places in rank, from 31st to 11th place. Connecticut enacted a comprehensive new piece of legislation in 2023, strengthening its animal protection laws. This new law requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty and grants them immunity for reporting in good faith. It also repaired a major loophole in Connecticut’s law prohibiting the sexual assault of animals. Finally, the law prohibits anyone convicted of animal cruelty from owning, possessing, or residing with an animal for five years.

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 are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws, including over 3,600 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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