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Animal Protection, State by State

The HSUS grades 50 states on laws to protect animals

WASHINGTON ―The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, has released its first "Humane State Ranking," a comprehensive report rating all 50 states on a wide range of animal protection laws dealing with pets, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife, animals in research, horses, and farm animals.

At the top of the list is California, which has strong laws in 45 of the 65 categories ranked: protecting pets from antifreeze poisoning and continuous chaining; prohibiting steel-jawed leghold traps, horse slaughter and mountain lion trophy hunting; and protecting farm animals from extreme confinement and tail-docking. New Jersey comes in second place, with strong laws on animal fighting, fur labeling, and alternatives to animal testing. Tied for third place are Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts.

"This comprehensive look at state policies related to a wide range of animal protection concerns reveals that the trends are positive, but there are major gaps in the law throughout the nation," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Anemic animal protection laws in many states will allow cruelty and abuse to continue, and that must change."  In 2009, The HSUS helped pass 121 new state animal protection laws.

At the bottom of the list, the states with the weakest animal protection laws are Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota, with South Dakota ranking last with a score of 8 out of 65. Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota got low marks in part because they are the only four states in the country with no felony penalty for egregious acts of animal cruelty. Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota are also among the 11 states that do not have felony-level penalties for cockfighting.

The ranking was based on 65 different animal protection issues in 10 major animal protection categories including: animal fighting; animal cruelty; puppy mills; use of animals in research; equine protection; wildlife abuse; factory farming; fur and trapping; exotic animals; and companion animal laws.

To see rankings for states Alabama-Missouri, please click here. To see Montana-Wyoming, please click here. To see total scores, please click here.


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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

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