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2009: A Record-Breaking Year of State Victories

Thanks to the help of our dedicated advocates and the support of state legislators, 2009 was another historic year for animals in state lawmaking. We end this year with a record-breaking 121 new animal protection laws enacted, shattering the previous record number of 93 new laws in 2008.

"We commend state legislators from across the country for a record-breaking year of lawmaking to protect animals from cruelty and abuse," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of The HSUS. "The anti-cruelty laws of a nation are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and the raft of pathbreaking bills passed in 2009 represent a measurable step forward for animals."

The HSUS worked on a wide range of issues this year, from increasing penalties against animal fighting, to making historic progress on combating puppy mills, to prohibiting the inhumane confinement of farm animals. There were many successes around the country, and below are twelve that we believe are the most significant victories of 2009.

Arkansas: Felony Cruelty/Cockfighting

Cat Feral Orange Tabby

Betsy McFarland/The HSUS

Arkansas became the 46th state to make cruelty to animals a felony offense. With the passage of S.B. 77 this year, Arkansas enacted strong felony level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty, leaving just four states with misdemeanor penalties for acts of cruelty. Before passage of this bill, there were five states where criminals could intentionally torture a companion animal and not face meaningful penalties. Now, thanks to the compassionate legislators who voted for this bill, Arkansas has distanced itself from that list with a law that we are proud to have helped shape.

S.B. 77 also made cockfighting a felony in Arkansas, making Arkansas the 38th state with felony penalties for cockfighting.

California: Tail Docking

California took a major step forward toward more humane treatment of farm animals this year when it became the first state to ban the tail docking of dairy cows. S.B. 135 was introduced in by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, and prohibits a common and cruel mutilation of dairy cows -- in the nation's top dairy state.

"We're grateful to Senator Florez for his humane leadership on this important legislation, which sets a clear precedent that dairy cows deserve protection from unnecessary abuse," stated Jennifer Fearing, California state senior director for The HSUS. "We encourage other big dairy states to follow California's example and prohibit cruel tail-docking."

Kansas: Cockfighting

Kansas joined Arkansas in passing strong anti-cockfighting legislation and became the 39th state to make cockfighting a felony when the legislature passed H.B. 2060 in April.

"This bill will send a strong message to cockfighters: Kansas will no longer be the destination for this cruel blood sport and its associated crimes," said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for The HSUS, upon passage of H.B. 2060.

In November, the HSUS assisted Kansas authorities in a raid of an alleged cockfighting operation. This raid was believed to be the first under the provisions of the new law.

Maine: Confinement

Maine also passed important legislation to help protect farm animals. This year, Maine became the sixth state to prohibit confinement of farm animals in gestation and veal crates -- individual cages that virtually immobilize breeding pigs and veal calves for nearly their entire lives.

L.D. 1021 was sponsored by Senator John Nutting (D-Androscoggin County).

"It's cruel and inhumane to confine animals in cages barely larger than their own bodies for months on end," said Katie Lisnik, Maine state director of The HSUS. "We're grateful to Senator Nutting for his humane leadership on this important legislation and hope its enactment sends a message to other states that they should follow suit."

Michigan: Confinement

cow calf


Michigan continued the trend when Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed major legislation into law banning three of the most inhumane confinement systems used on factory farms—gestation crates, veal crates and battery cages. A result of extensive negotiations between humane and agricultural groups, the law requires that certain farm animals have enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs.

The state has more than ten million laying hens, approximately 100,000 breeding pigs and is ranked by the Cattleman's Beef Board as a top veal-producing state. This new law marks the first time that a state legislature has enacted a phase out of battery cages.

Nevada: Animal Fighting

Nevada passed legislation to crack down on animal fighting. Nevada has had some of the weakest animal fighting laws in the country, as the only state that did not prohibit possessing dogs for fighting. On May 26, 2009, Gov. Jim Gibbons signed A.B. 199 into law, making Nevada the 50th state to ban the possession, keeping or training of dogs for fighting.

Nevada: Tethering

Nevada also passed one of the strongest tethering laws in the country, becoming the 13th state with some restrictions on the 24 hour-a-day chaining of dogs. S.B. 132, sponsored by Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Washoe County, limits the number of hours a dog can be chained or tied each day, and prohibits short chains and choke collars.

Since dogs are social animals, keeping them chained continuously can cause serious psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes unhappy, anxious and often aggressive -- becoming a greater public safety threat to the community. In many cases, the necks of tethered dogs become raw and covered with sores. This law will improve the lives of dogs and make communities safer by prohibiting continuous dog chaining.

New Jersey: Fur Labeling

raccoon dog

Lilia Tkachenko

New Jersey became the fifth state to pass a law requiring more complete labeling of garments containing animal fur. A recent investigation by The HSUS revealed that many designers and retailers were selling unlabeled fur-trimmed jackets as "faux," "raccoon" or "rabbit" that actually came from domestic dogs or raccoon dogs, an Asian canine species.

A. 2653 requires all garments containing real fur to be labeled with the species of animal and country of origin. New Jersey joins Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin in requiring more complete labeling of fur garments.

Oregon: Exotics

After a multi-year fight, Oregon passed legislation this year to prohibit private possession of wild animals in the state. S.B. 391 bans the private possession of alligators, monkeys, lions, tigers and bears. Across the United States, incidents involving exotic animals, such as the recent mauling of a Connecticut woman by a chimpanzee, reinforce the need for such legislation.

"This legislation will protect both public safety and animal welfare," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The HSUS. “Wild animals can attack, they can spread disease and the average citizen cannot meet their needs in captivity. Fortunately, state lawmakers are addressing this issue."

Oregon: Puppy Mills

As public awareness about the cruelty of puppy mills grows, so does state lawmakers’ resolve to pass legislation to crack down on puppy mills: a whopping 33 states considered puppy mill legislation in 2009. This year, Oregon passed some of the strongest puppy mill legislation in the country, joining Washington, Louisiana and Virginia as the first four states to limit the size of puppy mills. H.B. 2470A also established minimum care standards and put in place protections for consumers who may have purchased a dog with a disease or congenital defect.

Pennsylvania: Surgical Procedures

Following up on the 2007 overhaul of the state’s “Dog Law,” the Pennsylvania legislature passed S.B. 39 to prohibit some of the most painful and unsafe procedures commonly performed on dogs at large-scale puppy mills. The bill bans tail docking after five days of age, debarking and surgical birth on dogs, unless performed under anesthesia by a veterinarian.

Washington: Puppy Mills

Washington joined Oregon in passing similar legislation to crack down on abusive puppy mills. S.B. 5651 prohibits possession of more than 50 breeding dogs at one time and establishes welfare standards for people with more than ten breeding dogs, including space, exercise, housing facilities, access to food and water, and vet care. This legislation also authorizes investigations at breeding facilities.

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