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Best and Worst States for Pets

ALDF ranks animal protection laws in the U.S.
By JoAnna Lou, March 2010, Updated August 2021
dog rights

Each year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) ranks the animal protection laws of every state in the United States. The ALDF's most recent report (2020) compares fourteen categories of animal protection laws, ranking states into a top, middle and bottom tier and highlighting the best and worst five states.

Best Five States For Animals: Maine, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, Rhode Island

Worst Five States For Animals: Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico

The most improved jurisdictions this year were Iowa (38) and Northern Mariana Islands (ranked 5th out of the 6 United States territories). Both enacted comprehensive animal protection legislation in 2020, increasing animal rights. Previously, Northern Mariana Islands did not have any animal protection laws whatsoever, and they have now laid a foundation of broad protections. Iowa was previously ranked 49th but rose 11 ranks in 2020 by thoroughly updating its protections for certain categories of animals.  


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Some of the characteristics that separated the best from the worst were felony penalties for cruelty, neglect and abandonment, mandatory reporting of cruelty by veterinarians, and giving humane agents some law enforcement authority. 

I’m glad that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is compiling this information as it brings awareness to the varying laws between states. Hopefully this report will encourage animal lovers to write to their respective politicians to improve their states’ ranking providing dogs with greater rights. 

Even for the top tier, there is always room to be better. For each of the best five states, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has outlined possible improvements.

Let’s hope that one day every state will make it to the top tier.


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