This week, Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law a landmark bill that bans the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and instead encourages stores to work with animal shelters to promote the adoption of homeless pets. He also approved two other animal protection bills, including one that would require that cats and dogs no longer needed in research be placed for adoption, and another that allows judges to stop those convicted for animal abuse from having future pets. Earlier this month, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a bill to reduce the use of animals in product testing, making his state just the fourth in the country to pass such a law. And in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed a bill that upgrades penalties against dogfighters.
These are just a few of the examples of the important work that our state legislative teams do around the year, working with lawmakers to create and pass laws that reduce animal cruelty and suffering. We’ve made a strong start this year, with 30 new state laws that protect animals and 26 local ordinances passed. We’ve seen an additional 18 bills pass two chambers and 36 pass their first chamber. We have helped defeat 12 bad bills that would hurt animals. And there will be more victories to come as legislative sessions continue around the country. In 2017, we helped pass a total of 113 new state laws, and 114 ordinances, and on top of that we defeated 58 bills harmful to animals.
The Humane Society of the United States works in four key areas of great benefit to animals: direct care, corporate reform, education and engagement and public policy. On public policy, our work at the federal level attracts a lot of attention, but the opportunities we have to advance the cause of animals through the passage of laws in state legislatures are no less significant.
Since 2005, we’ve helped secure more than 2,000 legislative victories in the states. More than 500 of those successes have focused on companion animals. More than 350 have targeted animal cruelty and abuse. Some 275 have addressed the cruelty of puppy mills. And about the same number have benefited wildlife. And we’ve helped to stop nearly 700 harmful bills in the same time period.
As you would expect, the bills that surface in any given year frequently reflect the trends and priorities of the moment. After so many severe weather disasters in 2017, for example, many state legislatures responded in recent legislative sessions by prohibiting the tethering of dogs during inclement weather. Bills on this subject are currently under consideration in Hawaii, Louisiana, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Humane Society of the United States has also worked on 20 local ordinances on this issue, six of which have passed. Kansas passed legislation to protect Good Samaritans who rescue distressed dogs or cats from unattended vehicles, making it the 12th state in the nation to do so, and Louisiana and Illinois are currently considering similar bills.
After California passed the first state law prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs at pet stores, Maryland followed suit to become second, and we are working on legislation in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
It’s not a cakewalk, however, and we often find our work stymied by lack of momentum or opposition in the states. Recently, a tethering bill failed to pass in Virginia, despite widespread support by advocates. Moreover, despite its clear links to child abuse and other human sex crimes, bills to prohibit animal sexual abuse or upgrade ineffective laws have died in seven states, even though they faced only modest opposition.
There is one constant at the heart of our work in the states, whether it involves direct care, corporate outreach, education and engagement or legislative advocacy. It’s our network of state directors, some 46 of them at present, working with volunteers and partner organizations to advance our program work and our policy goals. They are our eyes and ears in the states, and if you are active in your own state, the chances are pretty good that you’ve met your state director. You can get more involved with our work as a volunteer, or as a citizen advocate, or join state lobby days with the Humane Society of the United States to connect with your legislators. We have held lobby days in 23 states this year. Find out how to become an ally for animals in your state here.
We need you now more than ever. Please join with us in support of laws, programs and other work that benefits all animals. Together, we make great things happen for animals.