The Five Worst (and Best) States to Be a Pet

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ALD-181 US Protection laws rankings map 2016 FINAL

Is the abuse of animals a serious crime? Unfortunately there are five states in America right now where the answer is, “Not really.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the premiere legal organization for animals, recently released the 11th annual year-end report (2016), ranking the animal protection laws of all 50 states.

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund works year round to strengthen laws, and we are gratified to see that reflected in the Report,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Despite this, there’s still a long way to go in animal protection, and Americans should use the Rankings Report as an indicator of where their home state can improve.”



The Rankings are based on a review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws including over 4,000 pages of statutes. It effectively tracks which states are taking animal protection seriously and is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind.

For the tenth year in a row, Kentucky ranks 50th on the list. Kentucky showed some progress by strengthening animal fighting statutes, but it was not enough change its status as the “Worst State” for animal protection laws.

Closely following Kentucky are Iowa (49), Wyoming (48) Utah (47), and North Dakota, all with the weakest animal protection laws in the United States.

For the ninth year in a row, Illinois takes first place for strongest protection laws, followed by Oregon (2), Maine (3), California (4) and for the first time in the top five, Rhode Island (5).

Many states continue to improve their animal protection laws. Michigan and Wisconsin have incorporated new provisions allowing pets to be included in protective orders in domestic violence situations. Tennessee has enacted the first ever state-wide animal abuser registry, Idaho has made severe pet abuse a felony and Maryland and Pennsylvania now prohibit the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia.

The Rankings Report shows that in the past five years, more than three quarters of all states have significantly improved their animal protection laws.



The full report, including details about each state, is available for download (PDF). The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s complete “Animal Protection Laws of the U.S.A. and Canada” compendium, on which the report is based, is available at

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