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The Best and Worst States for Animals – Where does your state fall?

ALDF 2012-state-rankings-mapRecently, I happened to come across another blogger’s blog post sharing her state’s (Florida) ranking in an annual report provided by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

The report comprehensively surveys animal  protection laws for all U.S. states and territories and then ranks those states and territories based on their laws.

“…the RANKINGS REPORT assesses the strength of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws by examining over 4,000 pages of statutes. Each jurisdiction receives a raw score based on fifteen different categories of animal protection…”

Of course, I was curious to find out what categories they included in their ranking, and I wanted to know where my state stood amongst the group (Minnesota ranked #14).

I was disappointed to see that the detailed information in the report, like what put each state at that ranking and what they could do better, was confined to only the 5 best and 5 worst states.  However, I thought the information was interesting enough to share a summary of their findings. I suspect that if you live in one of these states you already know where they would fall, but it’s still worth sharing. I encourage you to review the full report yourself. It’s quite interesting.

There were 15 categories used to determine a state’s ranking.  These covered laws in the following areas:

  1. General prohibitions
  2. Penalties
  3. Exemptions
  4. Mental health evaluations & counseling
  5. Protective orders
  6. Cost mitigation & recovery
  7. Seizure/impoundment
  8. Forfeiture and post‐conviction possession
  9. Non‐animal agency reporting of suspected animal cruelty
  10. Veterinarian reporting of suspected animal cruelty
  11. Law enforcement policies
  12. Sexual assault
  13. Fighting
  14. Offender registration
  15. “Ag gag” legislation (New this year, this ranking takes into account states where laws – propagated by the agriculture lobby – aim to conceal animal abuse, food safety risks, and illegal working conditions from consumers by making it illegal to video record or photograph at agricultural facilities.)

The Best 5 States for animals are:

  1. Illinois
  2. Maine
  3. California
  4. Michigan
  5. Oregon

The Worst 5 states for animals are:

  1. New Mexico (#46)
  2. South Dakota (#47)
  3. Iowa (#48)
  4. North Dakota (#49)*
  5. Kentucky (#50)

*I thought it was interesting (but not surprising) to see North Dakota on the “worst” list. I wrote about them late last year after their citizens voted down a law that would have made animal cruelty a felony. It’s kind of hard to see them making the best list with that kind of news isn’t it? By the way, South Dakota has chosen not to make animal cruelty a felony as well. I can’t help but wonder why. Surely the people in these states love animals too. Right?


What was also interesting were the states that improved their ranking by more than 50%:

Arizona:  52%
Arkansas:  139%
District of Columbia:  64%
Guam:  84%
Indiana:  74%
Mississippi:  78%

What made their ranking change so significantly? They changed, added laws or strengthened their existing animal protection laws.

Some of the areas in which they made this happen include:

  • Expanding the range of protections for animals
  • Providing stiffer penalties for offenders
  • Strengthening standards of care for animals
  • Reporting of animal cruelty cases by veterinarians and other professionals
  • Mitigating and recovering costs associated with the care of mistreated animals
  • Requiring mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders
  • Banning ownership of animals following convictions
  • Including animals in domestic violence protective orders
  • Prohibiting convicted abusers from gaining employment involving animal contact
  • Strengthening provisions on the sale and possession of exotic animals
  • Expanding humane officers’ powers to be the same as other peace officers

(Credit: 2012 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings™)

So where did your state fall on the list? Were you surprised?

  1. January 24, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    Wow. Really surprised to see Ohio ranking in the 30’s. Nice to see they are moving in the right direction. Thanks for sharing Mel!

    • Mel
      January 24, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      Agree! I think recent legislation around puppy mills should help their ranking as well.

  2. January 24, 2013 at 6:39 AM

    That is really interesting. I wonder if we have the same sort of thing for the Canadian Provinces.

    • Mel
      January 24, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      Great questions Hailey and Zaphod. I don’t know, but maybe check out their website and see if they do. I would hope so. It would be nice to know.

  3. January 24, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    I knew where my state was and I was ashamed. I am from the great state of Kentucky. The one that you can beat, burn, starve, whatever and you can get a fine and probation. Its a shame that are lawmakers do not seem to care about animal issues but I do know one lawmaker personally that says he is working with a team to make a change. Pets and animals are property here. That is where the change has to made first. We are not TV’s and cars we are living breathing life forms.

    • Mel
      January 25, 2013 at 5:55 AM

      I am so sorry Carma. It makes me sad to see the states at the bottom. I am especially sad about our neighbor, North Dakota, because they had a chance to change this ranking last year, but chose not to because HSUS was involved in the campaign. They cared less about animals than politics. 😦

  4. January 24, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Wow, we’re number 48. That’s sad.

    • Mel
      January 25, 2013 at 5:52 AM

      I agree Gracie. Everyone seems to be sad about that number.

  5. January 24, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    I love that there is a ranking system for this so people can see where their state is lacking and petition the government to make changes. I would be afraid to see where my province would be on this list but am curious if there is a similar system in Canada.

    • Mel
      January 25, 2013 at 5:53 AM

      Totally agree Kristine! I am hoping that it will be an eye-opener for those who are motivated to help animals in their own states.

  6. January 24, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    This is a great graphic for making people more aware of what is going on in their own states. I figured California would rate pretty well – glad to see we are #3. (I thought there would be more states from the south on the list, to be honest. My friends who live in TN have a lot to say about how their state, and others in their region, could improve!)

    • Mel
      January 25, 2013 at 5:51 AM

      Totally agree Jackie. I was not surprised by California’s rating. I am glad MN is in the top 15. (I admit that I also thought there would be more states from the south in the bottom 5, but I guess this serves to remind me that our northern neighbors are just as culpable.)

  7. January 24, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    I recently moved to Chicago, so I’m pumped to be in the #1 state! However, I grew up in NJ and my home state is all the way down at #48, so it looks like there is still tons of work to be done. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Mel
      January 25, 2013 at 5:50 AM

      Yay! I think Eko appreciates in being in a good state too!
      My friend Kim lives in NJ too. She was really disappointed to see them so low in the ranking. 😦

  8. January 29, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    Thanks for posting this-I hadn’t seen it. It is a great graphic to expose the weaknesses of most states…

  9. January 31, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    I am rarely proud to be from IL anymore…..but this is wonderful….I’m glad to know my state cares about the welfare of its animals!

    • Mel
      January 31, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      It’s a good reason to be proud Michelle. 🙂

  1. January 26, 2013 at 5:19 PM

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