By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
We begin our work in 2022 encouraged by the knowledge that a handful of significant animal protection laws at the state level have now taken effect across the country. That makes for a great start to a year in which we hope to extend the reach of our campaigns to help all animals.
Two ballot initiatives, Proposition 12 in California, approved by voters in 2018, and Question 3 in Massachusetts, approved in 2016, are now in force in those states. These laws prohibit the sale of products from egg-laying hens confined in cages, pigs in gestation crates and calves in veal crates (in MA, the pig provision kicks in about 7 months from now).
Proposition 12, which earned the support of 63% of California voters, is the strongest farm animal protection law in U.S. history. Since its passage, it’s been under steady attack from special interest groups including the National Pork Producers Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the North American Meat Institute. We’ve fought them off in the courts, and we’ll be ready to face off with them and other opponents in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures if that’s what’s necessary to defend the protections that Proposition 12 and related measures provide.
In 2021, we waged a successful campaign to strengthen the scope of Question 3 through a measure signed into law in late December. As a result, Massachusetts law provides precise cage-free standards for the treatment of hens, including a requirement for areas in which the birds can perch, scratch, dust bathe and lay eggs in nesting areas. Moreover, the law covers liquid eggs and other egg products used in restaurants and university dining centers, promising relief from cage confinement to an additional two million chickens.
Several laws taking effect in Illinois this year are heartening as precedents for the future of our companion animal protection efforts. As of February 23, Illinois pet shops will be permitted only to adopt out dogs and cats received from animal shelters or animal control facilities; they cannot legally sell animals sourced from puppy and kitten mills. In addition, Illinois pet dealers are no longer able to offer financing for puppies and kittens, under a law we argued was necessary to prevent pet purchase loans with exorbitant interest rates and hidden fees. Another Illinois law taking effect will allow low and very low-income tenants to keep pets and prevent landlords from adopting policies that prohibit pets of a specific breed or size. This law applies to certain multifamily rental housing units that receive funds from a state-administered affordable housing fund and spare renters from having to choose between relinquishing their pets or keeping a roof over their heads. Landlords may continue to enforce policies related to sanitation, vaccination and registration of pets under the law, which also specifies that a housing provider will not be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s pet, except in cases of willful and wanton misconduct.
Under new laws in Nevada and New York, insurers can no longer cancel, refuse to issue or renew a policy, or increase the premium or rate for a homeowner policy based solely on the assumed breed of a homeowner’s dog (with certain exemptions for dogs formally declared dangerous or vicious or having a clear history of dangerous behavior). Illinois passed a law requiring insurance companies to report data over a 2-year period on all dog-related claims to help end breed restrictions for policyholders with dogs.
In Virginia and Maryland, laws that prevent cosmetics manufacturers from conducting or contracting for cosmetic animal testing in the state are also in effect, and provisions to prohibit the sale of cosmetics products tested on animals will come into force on July 1. Laws to ban the sale of animal-tested cosmetics are also in effect in Maine and Hawaii with New Jersey’s law set to take effect in March. These state laws have helped to build momentum for passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act at the federal level.
Our public policy work is complex and challenging, and success involves close coordination between our state directors, program staff and legislative and lobbying teams. The laws we seek to pass at the state level play a decisive role in advancing our priority agenda for animal protection in a range of areas. They provide encouragement for the passage of similar laws in other states. In many cases, too, they lay the groundwork for strong federal legislation on the same topics. But whatever their focus, what really matters about these laws is this: They make a difference in the lives of countless animals right now, and they’ll continue to do so in the future.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.