California has once again topped our 2018 Humane State rankings list, after overwhelmingly passing the strongest farm animal protection law in the world, and by enacting a law that bans the sale of cosmetics tested on animals -- the first U.S. state to do so. Oregon, which has some of the strongest animal protection laws in the country, remained in second place, while Massachusetts, which passed a comprehensive animal cruelty law, held on to third place again this year.

Each year, we release our Humane State rankings based on a wide set of animal welfare policies that cover more than 90 policy ideas, ranging from protections for dogs living outdoors or left in hot cars, to prohibitions on hunting of mountain lions and bears, to bans on products of wildlife trafficking, to penalties for animal fighting, to prohibiting the use of cruel snares and leghold traps for trapping wildlife.

This year saw no major changes in the rankings, with Virginia remaining in fourth place. However, Illinois, which banned the trade in ivory, jumped up one spot to tie with Virginia.

Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota continued to rank at the bottom, although Mississippi did take a step forward by passing a measure to upgrade the penalties and add cost of care to its dogfighting law. Wyoming and Idaho remained low in the ranking as well.

The states with low rankings do not have strong protections for puppy mill dogs and farm animals and have poor anti-cruelty statutes. Some of the western states in particular lack strong protections for wildlife, and allow captive hunts. Trophy hunting and steel-jaw trapping of wolves are permitted in Idaho and Wyoming.

Rhode Island jumped up four spots to number 14, after banning battery cages for egg-laying hens and requiring dogs and cats be offered for adoption after their term in a research facility.
Photo by Lisa J. Godfrey/For the HSUS

Other notable states this year were:

  • Ohio, which has the second largest number of puppy mills in the country, moved up one place and secured its rank in the top 20 by passing the strongest law against puppy mills in the country.
  • Rhode Island jumped up four spots to number 14, after banning battery cages for egg-laying hens and requiring that dogs and cats be offered for adoption after their term in a research facility.
  • Maryland climbed up one spot to tie with Rhode Island, Florida and New Hampshire at number 14. In 2018, Maryland prohibited the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores, only the second state in the country to do this, besides California.
  • Connecticut and Kansas jumped up one spot each to number seven and number 34, respectively. Both states passed Good Samaritan laws to protect from civil liability individuals who rescue animals from cars. Louisiana also passed a Good Samaritan law in 2018.

Our state directors, staff and volunteers were out in the field all year, lobbying lawmakers and helping to draft language for bills to protect animals. Altogether, in 2018, we played a role in helping to pass 200 state and local animal protection laws.

New Jersey passed a sweeping ban on wild animal acts into law, becoming the first state to do so.
Photo by iStockphoto

Among the most notable legislative achievements of the year:

  • Florida banned greyhound racing, dealing a crippling blow to the industry. This law will eliminate 11 of the 17 remaining dog racing tracks in the country by the end of 2020.
  • New Jersey passed a sweeping ban on wild animal acts into law with Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature on “Nosey’s Law,” becoming the first state to do so. The ban applies to carnivals, circuses, displays, fairs, parades, petting zoos, and races, among many other live events.
  • Missouri repealed a breed-specific law that banned Springfield residents from adopting pit bulls, a major step forward toward ending breed discrimination.
  • Virginia made major strides to limit animal testing in 2018, becoming the fourth state to pass a law that requires the use of alternative methods to avoid or reduce animal testing and suffering. Virginia also passed a law to restrict state funding of research on dogs and cats that causes pain and distress.
  • Louisiana strengthened its current law on bestiality. The law updated the language and now defines, prohibits and sets penalties for the sexual abuse of animals.
  • Vermont banned coyote killing contests, just weeks after the HSUS released the results of its undercover investigation into wildlife killing contests.

We are well into preparations for new legislative sessions starting in January. We hope you will a look at the reports below to see where your state ranks, and take action in the new year to lobby your lawmakers and governors for stronger animal welfare laws that will lift your state in the rankings.

Alabama through Missouri >>

Montana through Wyoming >>

You can also sign up for HSUS action alerts or click here to be part of the team to help your state ascend in the rankings in 2019.