The 5 Best and Worst States to Be a Dog

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Photo Credit: Kaytee Riek/Flickr

While many states have made great strides to improve the treatment of pets (and other animals), others are, unfortunately, behind in the times, making it easy for animal abusers to get off.

For its ninth annual report ranking states on animal cruelty, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), looked at animal protection laws in all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. The report took into consideration 4,000 pages of statutes and tracks 15 categories of provisions, the press release states.  Keep in mind, this report is for all pets (and animals) but because This Dog’s Life is a site for dog lovers, we are just focusing on our canine friends.

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Courtesy of ALDF
Courtesy of ALDF

Here are the top five states it is great to be a dog and a few reasons why.

1. Illinois

For the seventh year in a row, The Prairie State takes the number-one spot.  Much of this can be attributed to its strong animal protection laws including felonies for cruelty, fighting, neglect, abandonment and sexual assault of a dog. Other factors include mental evaluations before sentencing, humane officers do have some law enforcement authority and protective orders can include dogs (along with other pets).

2. Maine

Maine grabbed the silver medal, as it also provides adequate protection for animals. Repeat offenders get harsher sentences or increased penalties, courts may not allow a person to own a dog after convicted of a crime and vets must report all aggravated animal cruelty, among other provisions.

3. Oregon

Oregon snagged the number-three spot due to its tough laws on animal abusers. The Beaver State is known for its strong dog fighting provisions along with providing broad authority to humane agents. Oregon also increases penalties for cases involving multiple animals, repeat domestic violence offenders and repeat animal abusers.

4. California

California gets high marks for a number of reasons including it requires offenders to give up their dog upon conviction, protective orders may include dogs and courts must order restitution.

5. Michigan

Michigan rounds out the top five, as the Wolverine state has strict guidelines for how it handles animal abusers. For one, dog fighting is considered a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (also known as RICO). Initially, RICO was developed to help fight organized crime — like drug dealing and gambling — but as it has expanded to dog fighting, it provides prosecutors more ammunition when going after the people that abuse animals. The state, like others, also has felony penalties for cruelty, fighting, neglect, abandonment and sexual assault.

But not all dogs have it so easy. Abuse still exists (just look online each day and you will see a heinous crimes committed against animals) and for the dogs living in these states, the law isn’t on their side. Below are the worst states and a few highlights as to why they are at the bottom.

46. Wyoming

The state doesn’t offer any felony penalties for neglect or abandonment. It also doesn’t require abusers to give up their dog upon conviction and requires no mental health evaluations for offenders.

47. Utah

In Utah, there is no duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws, according to the ALDF. Plus, there is no specific provision for “non-animal-related agencies and professionals” to report suspected dog abuse. It is also one of a handful of states where the ag-gag bill exists. Basically, the undercover recording of animal cruelty occurring in the farming industry is illegal.

48. New Mexico

In New Mexico, there is no increased penalties when dog abuse occurs in the presence of a minor. Plus, after conviction, there are no restrictions on owning another dog in the future.

49. Iowa

Iowa has inadequate definitions and standards for a dog’s basic care and ALDF believes there are inadequate provisions for dog fighting.  It also has no statutory authority that allows dogs to be included in protective orders. Lastly, it is another state that supports the ag-gag bills.

50. Kentucky

For the eighth year in a row, Kentucky is the worst state for animal abuse. The state doesn’t have an adequate definition or standsards for a dog’s basic care. There is also no increased penalties for abuse that occurs with multiple animals or in the presence of a minor. Plus, the state prohibits veterinarians from reporting suspected cruelty and fighting.

To see where your state stacks up, check out the full report and ranking here.

Fortunately, the ALDF points out that overall the U.S. is making headway with animal abusers. Indeed, in the last five years, more than 75 percent of all states have shown improvement in animal protection laws, according to the organization.

There is room for growth in every jurisdiction,” says Stephen Wells, executive director for ALDF said in a statement. “Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for animal protection do, so ALDF hopes lawmakers will recognize the need for serious progress in animal protection laws across the nation.”