We’ve had a strong year on animal protection in state legislatures, just the latest indicator of forward movement in the policy-making realm for our cause. This year, 97 new state laws and regulations were enacted to protect animals, and since 2005, it’s been 537 laws passed and a number of other rules and regulations.
The reforms fall into a wide variety of categories—upgrading of animal fighting laws, disaster planning legislation, restricting the keeping of exotic pets, equine protection, farm animal welfare, puppy mills, and others.
Today, I want to list what I think are the 10 most important policy gains of the year at the state level.
- California banned the sale of eggs from laying hens confined in battery cages, as a follow up to the passage of Prop 2 in November 2008. Prop 2 phases out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens, and the 2010 law means that all shell eggs sold in the state must conform to Prop 2’s standards. Both take effect in January 2015.
- Missouri voters approved Prop B, cracking down on puppy mills. Given that Missouri is the number one puppy mill state in the nation—with perhaps 3,000 mills, and 30 percent of the entire industry—this was the most important puppy mill measure ever. Some lawmakers in Missouri want to repeal the measure, so we’ll need to be vigilant in protecting Prop B. The second and third biggest puppy mill states—Oklahoma and Iowa—also passed legislation to improve care of dogs.
- Alaska lawmakers passed legislation to significantly upgrade the state’s anti-cruelty law by making the most egregious acts of cruelty to animals a felony on the first offense and also prohibiting the sexual abuse of animals. Prior to this bill’s passage, Alaska was the only state in the nation that allowed felony-level penalties for animal cruelty only after two prior convictions.
- Louisiana, which only banned cockfighting in 2008, made it a crime to be a spectator at a cockfight.
- In response to the infiltration of the Everglades by tens of thousands of exotic Burmese pythons, lawmakers in Florida banned the import into the state, breeding, sale and possession as pets of many large constricting snakes.
- We worked to defeat Prop 109 in Arizona, which would not only have established a constitutional right to hunt, but would have blocked future wildlife protection initiatives in the state.
- Lawmakers in Hawaii banned the horribly cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning. This was a widespread practice in Hawaiian waters, so it has special significance in our effort to ban the activity globally.
- It was a regulation, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission outlawed fox penning in the state—where coyotes and foxes are run down and torn apart in fenced enclosure. It’s an ugly blend of canned hunting and animal fighting and we want it outlawed everywhere.
- Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Rhode Island outlawed greyhound racing in their states, following up on the ballot initiative win in Massachusetts in November 2008.
- Illinois lawmakers banned the keeping of primates as pets.
Legislatures will reopen for business in most states in January. The only way we’ll get good laws passed is if we work hard on reforms in the new year and continue to educate the public so these measures get the momentum they deserve. We’ll keep you updated, and we’ll count on your help.
P.S. Have you seen The HSUS’s annual keepsake ornament? With a gift donation of $50 or more, we’ll send the collectible ornament, this year featuring a pig, and a personalized holiday card to your friend or loved one. With a donation of $90 or more, we’ll send an ornament to you, too. And if you donate by midnight EST this Thursday, Dec. 16, we'll be sure the ornament arrives by Dec. 24.
If you’re looking for any other last-minute gift ideas, every purchase from our online store Humane Domain and from our corporate supporters helps fund The HSUS’s animal protection efforts, and a virtual Humane Gift from our global affiliate Humane Society International will help protect animals around the world.