California, Oregon Gain Top Marks for Animal Welfare Policies, While Mississippi, South Dakota at Bottom of List
Once again, California claims the top spot in our annual assessment of state animal protection policies, with rankings grounded on a comprehensive examination of 88 policy ideas across the spectrum of humane issues – from the enactment of felony-level penalties for cockfighting to banning the possession of dangerous wild animals as pets to prohibition of the extreme confinement of farm animals to the promulgation of humane breeding standards for dogs. Oregon locked down second place in the annual survey, with Virginia climbing in the rankings and tying for third spot with Massachusetts.
On the other end of the ledger, North Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota – all states with few laws to protect wildlife, farm animals, and dogs in puppy mills – were the poorest performers. Puerto Rico also ranks in the bottom five, but circumstances there are changing for the better. The HSUS’s Humane Puerto Rico project is on the ground, working together with the shelters of the island and our sister organization, Humane Society International, to revamp laws in the Commonwealth and provide a wide range of hands-on programs and training to address chronic animal welfare problems.
Here are some of the highs and lows of 2015’s legislative sessions:
- California cracked down on international wildlife traffickers by closing a loophole in its longstanding ban on the trade in elephant ivory and by banning the trade in rhino horns, while Washington state voters overwhelmingly approved an even more comprehensive wildlife trafficking ban – covering trade in the parts of 10 species, including elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, and leopards. Oregon is expected to consider a ballot initiative similar to the Washington measure in 2016.
- California adopted the toughest limits in the nation on the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, while North Carolina, the second largest pig-producing state and an enormous turkey producer, was the only state to enact an ag-gag law in 2015. The adverse action in North Carolina, where lawmakers overrode the veto of the governor, caused the Tarheel state to fall two spots to 40th
- New Jersey and Virginia passed laws prohibiting pet stores from selling puppies from some of the worst puppy mills in the United States, with severe Animal Welfare Act violations.
- In Tennessee, one of the worst cockfighting states, a multi-year battle by animal advocates resulted in the state legislature increasing penalties for attending an animal fight or bringing a child to an animal fight. The vote was near unanimous.
- California, Connecticut, and Nevada now require healthy dogs and cats used in laboratory experiments to be made available for adoption by rescue groups rather than euthanized
- Texas became the 10th state along with three U.S. territories to ban the trade in shark fins.
Altogether, The HSUS, with our state directors and advocates, and affiliates such as the Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society International, helped pass a total of 159 local and state animal protection laws in 2015.
Take a look at the rankings to see where your state stands on this list, and sign up for HSUS action alerts to help your state ascend in the rankings in 2016.
For more details on how your state did in our Humane Rankings, visit our lists below: