Laws governing deputizing humane officers

2021 U.S. Animal Protection Laws State Rankings

Select an animal law category to view 2022 trends:

Humane officer certification

◼︎ States that both require training standards AND define enforcement powers
◼︎ States that only define enforcement powers
◼︎ States with vague or no laws regarding humane officers

Another new trend in 2021 is the enactment of laws detailing requisite training and certification for humane officers with law enforcement authority. Three states, Maryland, Ohio, and Vermont, passed such laws in 2021. This is a burgeoning trend that is likely to be repeated throughout the country.

Most animal protection laws date back to the early 1900s. Although all states have updated their laws over the years, many archaic provisions still survive to this day. Laws governing humane society duties and authority are often overlooked when updating cruelty laws. Outdated versions of these laws will broadly declare that humane societies, or organizations that exist in order to protect animals, may enforce animal protection laws. Unfortunately, the boundaries of these enforcement authorities are not always clear. The law is vague when declaring who has the authority to apply for search warrants, to seize cruelly treated animals, and to arrest offenders. The training and certification process for people with these enforcement powers is also left unspecified. Many jurisdictions have managed to compensate for this lack of structure by building in their own standard practices and policies.

These creative solutions may work well as a stopgap measure, but they unfortunately create inconsistencies between states and even individual counties,” said Staff Attorney Kathleen Wood. “They also give rise to due process concerns that could threaten prosecutor’s ability to hold animal cruelty offenders accountable.”

In order to remedy these issues, states have slowly but steadily begun passing laws that detail what training a humane officer must undergo, the certification process, and the scope of the officer’s law enforcement authority.

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