Best and Worst States for Animals

ALDF and HSUS ranks protection laws
By JoAnna Lou, January 2012

Each year the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) separately rank the animal protection laws of every state in the country. Their reports are a great way to measure progress and to identify areas of improvement.

The good news is, according to the ALDF, more than half of all states experienced a significant improvement in their animal protection laws in the last five years. These improvements included increasing penalties for abuse offenders, requiring veterinarians to report animal cruelty cases and including animals in domestic violence protective orders.

Mississippi showed the most progress, moving from 50th to 30th overall this year. The change reflects the state making repeated cruelty and neglect a felony and authorizing mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders.

As you’ll see below, the ALDF and HSUS rankings are slightly different. But there’s consistency at the bottom. The three states that don’t have felony penalties for animal abuse—Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota—are the worst offenders on both lists.


Best: Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, California

Worst: South Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, Kentucky


Best: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts

Worst: Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, Idaho, South Dakota

The differences can be attributed to the measures that each organization uses to put together their rankings. The ALDF focuses on animal abuse with companion animals. The HSUS rankings incorporate a wide range of areas including laws regarding killing animals for fur, science research protocols, keeping exotic pets, hunting and the treatment of farm animals.

I like that the ALDF report has suggestions for areas of improvement, although they only provide them for the best and worst states. If the report provided this information for each state, it would make it easy for people to advocate for stronger animal protection laws in their area.

How does your state measure up?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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