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The HSUS Recognizes Top 12 State Legislative Achievements in Animal Protection

2009 a record-breaking year of victories

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, closes out 2009 by recognizing the top 12 state legislative achievements in animal protection. Thanks to the help of dedicated advocates and the support of state legislators, 121 new animal protection laws were enacted, shattering the previous record number of 93 in 2008.

"The Humane Society of the United States commends 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 path-breaking bills passed in 2009 represents a measurable step forward for animals."

There were many successes around the country, and below are 12 that The Humane Society of the United States believes are the most significant of 2009.

Arkansas: Felony Cruelty and Cockfighting

Arkansas became the 46th state to make cruelty to animals a felony offense. With the passage of S.B. 77, Arkansas enacted strong felony level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty, leaving just four states with misdemeanor penalties for malicious animal abuse. S.B. 77 also made cockfighting a felony in Arkansas, making Arkansas the 38th state with felony penalties for cockfighting. Before passage of this bill, there were five states where criminals could intentionally torture a companion animal and not face meaningful penalties. Arkansas has distanced itself from that list with a law that The HSUS is proud to have helped shape.

California: Tail Docking

California, the nation's top dairy state, took a major step forward toward more humane treatment of farm animals when it became the first state to ban the tail docking of dairy cows. S.B. 135 prohibits this painful and unnecessary mutilation of dairy cows, and The HSUS hopes it will provide a model for other dairy-producing states.

Kansas: Felony Cockfighting

Kansas joined Arkansas in passing strong anti-cockfighting legislation making cockfighting a felony when the legislature passed H.B. 2060 in April. Weak penalties and fines are considered just a cost of doing business by cockfighters, who can earn tens of thousands of dollars in gambling wagers. 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 passed L.D. 1021, becoming the sixth state to prohibit confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates and the fourth to prohibit the confinement of calves in veal crates. These individual cages virtually immobilize animals for nearly their entire lives, and are being phased out by retailers and producers as consumers are demanding more humane treatment of farm animals.

Michigan: Confinement

Michigan passed H.B. 5127, banning three of the most inhumane confinement systems used on factory farms — gestation crates for breeding pigs, veal crates for calves and battery cages for egg-laying hens. 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. This new law marks the first time that a state legislature has enacted a phase-out of battery cages. 

Nevada: Dogfighting

Nevada had some of the weakest animal fighting laws in the country, as the only state that still allowed possession of dogs for fighting.  Lawmakers rectified this negative distinction by passing A.B. 199 into law, banning the possession, keeping or training of dogs for fighting.

Nevada: Tethering

Nevada also passed one of the strongest anti-tethering laws in the country, becoming the 13th state with some restrictions on the 24-hour-a-day chaining of dogs. S.B. 132 limits the number of hours a dog can be chained or tied each day, and prohibits short chains and choke collars. This law will improve the lives of dogs and make communities safer by prohibiting continuous dog chaining.

New Jersey: Fur Labeling

New Jersey passed A. 2653 requiring all garments containing animal fur to be labeled with the species of animal and country of origin. 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. New Jersey is the fifth state to pass a fur labeling law.

Oregon: Exotics

After a multi-year fight, Oregon passed S.B. 391 banning the private possession of alligators, monkeys, lions, tigers and bears. Across the United States, incidents involving dangerous exotic animals, such as the recent mauling of a Connecticut woman by a "pet" chimpanzee, reinforce the need for such legislation to protect public health and safety.

Oregon: Puppy Mills

As public awareness about the cruelty of large-scale puppy mills grows, so does state lawmakers' resolve to pass legislation to crack down on these abusive dog factories: a whopping 33 states considered puppy mill legislation in 2009. Oregon passed some of the strongest puppy mill legislation in the country. H.B. 2470A 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 passed S.B. 5651, another strong law cracking down on puppy mill abuses. It 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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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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