Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming have been named in a list as the five American states with the weakest animal protection laws.
They were identified by the Animal Legal Defense Fund after its detailed comparative analysis of the animal protection laws to rank all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other US territories.
Its report analyzes more than 4000 pages of statutes, tracks 15 broad categories of provisions, and reveals the states where animal law has real teeth — and calls out those, such as Kentucky, which it notes is the single worst state in the US for animal protection laws for the seventh year in a row.
The group says legislative weaknesses in the bottom-tiered states include inadequate standards of basic care for an animal, limited authority given to humane officers, and lack of mandatory reporting when veterinarians suspect animal cruelty.
At the other end of the spectrum, the best states were Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, and California.
Illinois was the best for the sixth consecutive year.
States with the biggest changes included North Dakota, which added, for the first time, felony penalties for cases involving extreme animal cruelty or torture. Arizona was the most-improved state this year, and was one of six states that strengthened its cost of care provisions. Other state improvements include adding felony penalties for animal neglect.
The group released its first rankings report in 2006; since then more than half of all states and territories have made a significant improvement in their animal protection laws, it said.
However, there remained room for growth in every jurisdiction.
“Each state and territory has plenty of room for improvement,” executive director Stephen Wells said.
“We hope lawmakers recognize the need for serious progress in animal protection laws across the nation. Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for animal protection do.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 with the mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.