The Animal Legal Defense Fund has recently revealed its rankings report for the eighth consecutive year, and found that California is one of the five best states in terms of animal protection laws. Nevertheless, there are many states whose animal welfare reputations are appalling. Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the report, along with California’s own ranking and strengths.
Recently, the Animal Legal Defense Fund published its Rankings Report, one of the most comprehensive evaluations of the different state’s statutes for animal protection. It found that the top five states (Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Maine and California) have remained consistent in their dedication to animal welfare for the past six years. Moreover, many states have increased the penalties for animal abuse, neglect and abandonment to felony charges. However, many states still have a great deal of work to do.
The report has found that many states have managed to jump from what was casually titled “Best States to Abuse Animals.” North Dakota has retooled its animal cruelty code and implemented felony cruelty provisions for the first time in the state’s history. Arizona was found to be the most improved of all of the territories in 2013.
California was found to be exemplary in numerous areas. It has a full range of statutory protections, requires court ordered counselling post-animal abuse conviction, restricts animal ownership for those convicted of animal abuse, requires that veterinarians report suspected animal abuse or neglect and gives Humane agents the authority to enforce animal abuse laws and regulations.
California isn’t perfect, though. (No state is.) There could be improvements in the penalties for animal abuse in front of minors, increased penalties for animal abusers with prior domestic violence convictions, felony penalties for animal abandonment and sexual assault.
The lack of animal abuser registries is one of the major concerns of the rankings report, but as there are yet no national or statewide animal abuser registries, this cannot be considered a major flaw. Moreover, there is debate on the animal registry question among animal welfare associations. The Humane Society doesn’t endorse the idea of an animal abuser registry due to concerns that the registry would shame and alienate mentally unstable people who would be included on it, making them unlikely to seek counselling.
Nevertheless, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working to create a registry independent of any particular state by asking states to submit the names of those convicted of animal abuse crimes for their own database. Chris Green, ALDF director of legislative affairs has stated that the purpose of the registry is to give shelters, animal adoption agencies and private sellers a resource so that they can determine whether or not an animal is being placed in safe hands. As of now, there is no such resource.
Animal Support is very pleased that California and the other top 5 states are doing great work for animal welfare, there is still work that needs to be done. As long as shelters are overcrowded, feral cats roam the streets and underground animal fights exist, the struggle will continue.
 Animal Defense Fund: 2013 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings http://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2013-United-States-Animal-Protection-Laws-Rankings.pdf
 O’Connor, Lydia: Animal Abuse Registry Created To Track Convicted Offenders Huffington Post 11/5/2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/animal-abuse-registry_n_4195903.html