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States with the best and worst animal protection laws

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Laura L. Valentine // U.S. Air Force

States with the best and worst animal protection laws

Animal cruelty is considered a crime in all 50 states, though the extent to which it is prosecuted varies by state. The FBI uses animal cruelty to identify potential and known criminals, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles website. Cruelty to animals is also classified in the DSM-IV by the American Psychiatric Association as a sign of a conduct disorder, often appearing by age 8. Unfortunately, these factors do not combine to create more stringent laws in all the states of the union, but state law enforcement agencies rarely recognize the importance of such laws despite clear scientific evidence that young animal abusers can develop into criminals later in life.

As far as enforcement goes, this is generally left to the local police force, though humane investigators may have law enforcement powers as well. However, as stated by John Paul Fox on the Utah Humane Society’s website, there are few humane investigators employed by local SPCAs and humane societies; in fact, Fox is the only humane investigator employed by the state of Utah.

Stacker used data from the Animal Legal Defense Fund to examine which states in the U.S. have the most lenient and the most comprehensive laws against animal cruelty and how well those laws are enforced by police or humane investigators. The advocacy organization took into account more than 3,400 pages of state statutes to determine how states stack up in 19 different categories of animal-protection laws. Five of these categories are shown in this article, and more detailed laws are available through the ALDF for each state.

Read on to find out why this problem, which deserves more attention than it is being given, is often overlooked by law enforcement agencies and where your animals will be the safest under the law.

You may also like:  25 jobs where you get to work with animals

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Jeremy Eades // Wikimedia Commons

#50. Kentucky

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: No
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Prohibited
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Kentucky-2018.pdf

Kentucky has the most lenient laws in the U.S. for animal protection. Among these laws is a lack of provisions for mandatory veterinary reporting of animal cruelty; in fact, such reporting is prohibited in Kentucky, the only one of the 50 states to do so. There are also no laws about leaving animals locked in a hot car and about mandating psych evaluations for animal abusers.

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Pixabay

#49. Mississippi

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Mississippi-2018.pdf

Mississippi ranks second only to Kentucky in terms of the worst five states; here, veterinarians may report suspected cruelty to animals, which is a slight improvement over its complete prohibition in Kentucky. Another improvement is the fact that the state has legal repercussions for those who sexually abuse animals.

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Tony Webster // flickr

#48. Iowa

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Iowa-2018.pdf

Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers are mandatory in the third-worst state for animal protection in the country, Iowa. Unfortunately, those convicted of animal abuse may still own animals. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa also has a full-time animal abuse intervention coordinator on staff who serves in an investigative capacity, and the organization seeks to educate the public to recognize and report signs of abuse.

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Raymond Shobe // flickr

#47. Wyoming

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: No
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Wyoming-2018.pdf

In Wyoming, there are no laws about leaving animals locked in a hot car, nor are there laws criminalizing the sexual assault of animals. However, courts may order forfeiture of abused animals.

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Mike Lewinski // flickr

#46. New Mexico

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: No
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-New-Mexico-2018.pdf

In New Mexico, the best of the “worst five” states, there is mandatory forfeiture of abused animals upon conviction, taking the law from Wyoming one step further. Mental health evaluations for offenders are mandatory as well. There is also an animal cruelty hotline for concerned citizens and a network of safe havens called CARE for animals of domestic violence victims.

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Edgar Zuniga Jr.

#45. Utah

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Utah-2018.pdf

Utah Humane Society offers a comprehensive outline of the complaints it can manage on its website, including animals who have been left without basic needs such as food, water, or shelter, or those who have been beaten and abused. The UHS also offers a list of complaints it does not handle, including barking or crying dogs, at-large animals, and one animal killing or injuring another without human involvement, with referrals to the appropriate state and local agencies.

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Pixabay

#44. North Dakota

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-North-Dakota-2018.pdf

North Dakota is the first state on this list to include a provision for law enforcement to rescue animals locked inside a hot car; the previous states did not have laws about it. In addition, that veterinary reporting of suspected abuse is mandatory is a major improvement over many of the states listed thus far, especially over Kentucky, which prohibits such reporting completely.

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Carly Lesser/Art Drauglis // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Montana

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Montana-2018.pdf

In Montana, where laws are more lax (no court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers, for example), pets are defined as “property.” This limits their rights in the eyes of the law; furthermore, the state veterinarian’s office only deals with abuse of livestock, not pets such as cats or dogs, and the law states that an animal may be killed for “just cause,” which is vague.

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cifraser1 // flickr

#42. Idaho

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Idaho-2018.pdf

The Idaho Humane Society offers a list of complaints it will respond to on its website including animal cruelty and neglect, barking dogs, or dogs at large. This agency works in tandem with local law enforcement agencies and its own animal care and control division to address concerns about animal cruelty.

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Pixabay

#41. Hawaii

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: No
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Hawaii-2018.pdf

Hawaii’s Humane Society takes things a step further than agencies that list the concerns; they will respond to by citing specific laws regarding animal cruelty on its website. The laws are broken into county, state, and federal categories and provide additional authority to the organization’s enforcement efforts.

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Austin Community College // flickr

#40. South Carolina

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-South-Carolina-2018.pdf

Though there are some ways that South Carolina state law is effective in preventing cruelty to animals (permitting vets to report suspected cruelty, laws against sexual assault of animals), in other ways, the state is surprisingly ineffective. There is no apparent consequence for animal abusers, for example, in terms of either court-ordered psych evaluations or post-conviction animal possession bans. According to the Humane Society’s website, the police or sheriff’s office field complaints of animal cruelty.

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Pixabay

#39. Alaska

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Alaska-2018.pdf

Interestingly, a 2009 study completed at the University of Alaska - Anchorage found a link between animal abuse and domestic partner violence. This led to changes in 10 states’ laws about domestic violence protective orders covering pets, but Alaska was not among them.

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Amy Liss // Shutterstock

#38. Alabama

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Alabama-2018.pdf

Alabama is one of the few states in the American South with mandatory veterinary reporting of animal cruelty. As of March 2018, Emily’s Law took effect, which imposes felony convictions on owners of dogs who injure or kill a person in certain circumstances.

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Vyacheslav Argenberg // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Georgia

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Georgia-2018.pdf

The Georgia Department of Agriculture makes the laws about animal cruelty transparent on its website. It also outlines who to call for suspected cruelty based upon the type of animal: many complaints about smaller animals are handled by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, either the Animal Protection Section or the Equine Health Section.

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Mercy for Animals // Wikimedia Commons

#36. North Carolina

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-North-Carolina-2018.pdf

North Carolina maintains an animal welfare hotline that was created by state law to take complaints about possible animal mistreatment; the number is toll-free in North Carolina. This hotline is operated under the auspices of the Attorney General and housed within the North Carolina Department of Justice.

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Seabear70 // Wikimedia Commons

#35. South Dakota

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-South-Dakota-2018.pdf

The Sioux Falls, S.D. city website outlines the makeup of the Animal Control department—seven full-time officers, one part-time officer, a civilian supervisor, and a police lieutenant. Their website also offers links to city ordinances about animal cruelty.

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Pixabay

#34. Missouri

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Missouri-2018.pdf

The Humane Society of Missouri clearly outlines the laws related to animal cruelty in the state on its website and even notes that the list is amended, offering a link to the full list. According to these laws, any member of state law enforcement may invoke search and seizure to enforce the laws against animal cruelty.

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Gastongato // Wikimedia Commons

#33. New York

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-New-York-2018.pdf

Animal rights in New York are housed under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Attorney General’s Animal Protection Initiative. This group is mainly concerned with enforcing compliance with the state’s Pet Lemon Law, designed to ensure that animals sold as pets are in good health as they transition from dealer to consumer, and also targets reports of animal fighting rings.

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Kathleen Tyler Conklin // flickr

#32. Maryland

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Maryland-2018.pdf

Reports of animal cruelty in Maryland are handled by the Office of Animal Control, including in Baltimore, St. Mary’s, and Charles Counties. There are steps on how to report a violation of the county’s animal laws on the Baltimore county website.

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Pixabay

#31. Wisconsin

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Wisconsin-2018.pdf

Wisconsin is fairly unique in allowing “Good Samaritans” to rescue animals locked in hot cars, being one of only a few states in the country to allow this. The Wisconsin Humane Society website provides the various statutes of animal welfare laws as they apply to those in Wisconsin; one interesting feature is that animals must be treated humanely as part of research studies at the University of Wisconsin.

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Pixabay

#30. Arkansas

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Arkansas-2018.pdf

In Arkansas, House Bill 1778 to amend Act 33, passed in 2009, failed to pass earlier this year. The new bill would have called for harsher fines and criminal investigation into those who violate animal abuse laws in the state. As it stands, there are no post-conviction animal bans in the state, and those who abuse animals may not be charged with a felony.

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Wonderlane // flickr

#29. Ohio

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Ohio-2018.pdf

In Ohio, good samaritans can also rescue animals from being locked in a hot car (as opposed to rescue by law enforcement), placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of citizens. Interestingly, according to the website for the Summit County (Ohio) Humane Society, the Society can only rescue abused, abandoned, or neglected animals according to law. Citizens are advised to contact animal control for healthy strays and vicious animals, and no instructions are given for how to handle wildlife.

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Tony Alter // flickr

#28. Oklahoma

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Oklahoma-2018.pdf

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals works to fight cruel and inhumane treatment of animals through efforts such as fundraising and advocacy, as well as a Million Mutt March. Oklahoma state laws about animal rights are listed on their website.

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Pixabay

#27. Connecticut

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Connecticut-2018.pdf

In Connecticut, those who harm animals can be charged with a Class D felony for their first offense and a Class C felony for subsequent offenses. Violators may face between 30 days to 10 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, or both.

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Pixabay

#26. Arizona

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Arizona-2018.pdf

Arizona is home to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which contains the Animal Crimes Investigation Unit, an unusual unit that has been important in creating case law within this subfield. Detectives specially trained for the purpose of enforcing animal rights and welfare investigate the calls received by this unit, and the ACIU is often consulted with by other agencies doing similar work.

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Fancycrave // GoodFreePhotos

#25. Tennessee

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Tennessee-2018.pdf

The Montgomery County, Tenn. website details the statutes of state and local animal law, including not keeping an animal tethered for over eight hours per day. In addition, good Samaritans can assist law enforcement in maintaining animal welfare by rescuing animals locked in hot cars.

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Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley // U.S. Navy

#24. Nebraska

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Nebraska-2018.pdf

The Nebraska Humane Society has jurisdiction in Sarpy County and in Omaha, which is a fairly limited area as compared to the 93 counties within the state. The laws of the state are fairly stringent, but it begs the question of who is running animal control in those other counties.

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Mahdikarimi70 // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Vermont

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Vermont-2018.pdf

Vermont leaves the enforcement of its animal rights laws to Animal Control Officers, or, in places where there aren’t any, the Vermont State Police or Sheriff's Department. The Vermont Humane Society website lists clear steps to take if you suspect animal cruelty or wish to learn more about Vermont’s animal cruelty laws.

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Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell // U.S. Air Force

#22. West Virginia

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: No
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Crime, law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-West-Virginia-2018.pdf

In West Virginia, leaving animals locked in a hot car is considered a crime, but until January 2019, no one was allowed to rescue these animals. As of January, law enforcement officers and other first responders may rescue animals locked in hot cars, thanks to HB 2185, which passed unanimously.

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Pixabay

#21. Minnesota

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Minnesota-2018.pdf

Animal Humane Society of Minnesota’s three-person, full-time staff collaborates with law enforcement to assist with cases related to animals in the state. Unlike in many of the states we have looked at so far, law enforcement in Minnesota can rescue animals who are locked in a hot car.

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Pixabay

#20. Delaware

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Delaware-2018.pdf

Similar to Minnesota’s structure of the Animal Humane Society, Delaware Animal Services responds to calls concerning animal cruelty and other animal-related emergencies. Their website provides a link to the Brandywine SPCA for information on re-homing pets, a service that DAS does not provide.

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Pixabay

#19. New Hampshire

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-New-Hampshire-2018.pdf

In New Hampshire, animal law is enforced by local police and then escalated to the Division of Animal Industry on a case-by-case basis. The state has several stringent laws against animal cruelty, including mandatory court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers and mandatory post-conviction animal bans.

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Pixabay

#18. Kansas

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Kansas-2018.pdf

The Kansas Pet Animal Act, in its latest revision as of February 2019, uses specific language to create its definitions, leaving little room for interpretation as to what constitutes an animal or the abuse of one. Its laws are stringent throughout and leave no question as to the illegality of animal cruelty and the consequences for those who are convicted of such a crime.

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hj_west // flickr

#17. New Jersey

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Crime, but no one can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-New-Jersey-2018.pdf

Because of the passage of a new law in New Jersey, the SPCA no longer handles animal abuse cases; that responsibility has been passed on to Humane Law Enforcement Officers that report to county prosecutors. The state’s website provides the full text of relevant statutes as well as the same content in layman’s terms.

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National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Nevada

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Nevada-2018.pdf

The Nevada Humane Society offers a link to the Washoe County Regional Animal Services website for animal control issues in the state (except for Carson City, which is a special case). There is a helpful FAQ on the Washoe County site that explains in plain language many of the concerns surrounding animal law in the state.

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Governor Tom Wolf // flickr

#15. Pennsylvania

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Pennsylvania-2018.pdf

Pennsylvania state government has an entire department called the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. It was created after the passage of Libre’s Law in 2017, which was a landmark piece of legislation in animal law for the state. However, this department does not deal with animal cruelty, instead referring those cases to a police officer or specially trained humane society police officer for further investigation.

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Pixabay

#14. Virginia

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Virginia-2018.pdf

The state of Virginia recently posted online about training for existing law enforcement officers wishing to learn how to identify and take action against animal cruelty. Topics to be covered included basic terminology, regulations surrounding dogfighting and cockfighting, investigative techniques, and VA laws related to animal cruelty.

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Tony Webster // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Florida

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Florida-2018.pdf

As of Oct. 1, 2018, Florida cracked down on animal abuse by introducing new laws that increased the severity of penalties for those convicted of animal abuse-related crimes. The laws also built-in policies and procedures for shelters and similar organizations to use following natural disasters to return lost pets to their owners.

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MaxPixel

#12. Michigan

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Michigan-2018.pdf

Following suit with other states who are strengthening laws against animal abusers, Michigan had some new laws take effect in early 2019 that could put abusers in jail for up to 10 years, depending on the circumstances. Those who advocated for the new bills to be made law, including one that stiffens penalties against those who have harmed animals to cause emotional distress to another human being, hope that judges will recognize the laws’ necessity.

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Oniongirl // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Texas

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: No law about it
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Texas-2018.pdf

The Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit under the auspices of the SPCA of Texas handles concerns relating to animal cruelty or abuse. The unit focuses on the larger counties within Texas and recommends contacting local law enforcement outside of Dallas, Hunt, Kaufman, and Van Zandt counties.

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Diego Delso // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Indiana

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Indiana-2018.pdf

In Indiana, where so much of the economy has relied historically on farming and livestock, it’s reassuring that there is a Board of Animal Health handling matters related to animal abuse and cruelty. Though the BOAH website clearly states that there is no mandated local government-run animal control agency in every county or area, it also directs users to call local law enforcement (or animal control, if available) if they suspect abuse or cruelty.

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Pixabay

#9. Washington

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Washington-2018.pdf

The Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association’s website provides text of the state’s animal cruelty laws, but it is difficult to locate information on how to report said cruelty. When in doubt, local law enforcement will assist with these types of investigations.

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Pixabay

#8. California

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-California-2018.pdf

California has some of the strictest laws against animal cruelty on the books: everything from mandating that veterinarians report suspected abuse to mandating psych evaluations for convicted abusers. The California Animal Welfare Association provides training to animal control officers and humane officers throughout the state.

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Pixabay

#7. Louisiana

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Louisiana-2018.pdf

Under the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Animal Control Advisory Task Force has clearly defined objectives and maintains an animal shelter registry as well as a shelter inspection program besides its support of local animal control efforts. Its website’s resources page links to local and municipal officers’ contact info and also provides information on an app to report suspected abuse.

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Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Nistas // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Rhode Island

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Permissive
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Rhode-Island-2018.pdf

In Rhode Island, animal law is enforced by the SPCA in concert with local animal control agencies and police departments. In addition, the state took its crackdown on animal abuse one step further this past May, when it approved a bill to create an animal abuser registry.

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Pixabay

#5. Massachusetts

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: None
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Massachusetts-2018.pdf

The MSPCA site has two phone numbers for citizens to call to report suspected abuse; the lines are open during normal business hours, and those who wish to report an emergency after hours may contact their local police. Additionally, the Animal Rescue League of Boston serves a similar purpose; it is an organization that exists as a full-time animal law enforcement agency.

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Jeff Vanuga/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Colorado

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: None
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Colorado-2018.pdf

In the state of Colorado, the Bureau of Animal Protection exists under the Department of Agriculture to support local law enforcement in its animal cruelty and neglect investigations. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region provides a detailed FAQ on its website for residents of certain counties in Colorado, including who to call to file a complaint.

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Pixabay

#3. Maine

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Maine-2018.pdf

Similar to Colorado, the Department of Animal Welfare in Maine operates under the Bureau of Agriculture in the state’s government. As with many other states, the suggested procedure is to call a local law enforcement officer first, and then to have a humane officer get involved, as local police may be able to respond more quickly to the situation.

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Another Believer // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Oregon

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: "Good samaritans" can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Permissive
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Mandatory
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Oregon-2018.pdf

In Oregon, the second-best state in the country for laws against animal cruelty, local law enforcement works with the Oregon Humane Society to address issues of neglect or abuse. The OHS website states that much of their work takes place in Multnomah County, but they have jurisdiction across Oregon.

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USDA/Preston Keres // flickr

#1. Illinois

- State has laws criminalizing sexual assault of animals: Yes
- Veterinary reporting of animal cruelty: Mandatory
- Leaving animal locked in hot car: Law enforcement can rescue
- Court-ordered psych evaluations for animal abusers: Mandatory
- Post-conviction animal possession bans: Permissive
- More detailed state animal protection laws: https://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Animal-Protection-Laws-of-Illinois-2018.pdf

The combination of specificity in its language used in animal laws, harsh consequences for those who break the law, and effective law enforcement as concerns animal law makes Illinois the best state in the country for animal rights law. The state even passed a new law in mid-2018 allowing law enforcement officers to take custody of mistreated pets, further proving their commitment to animal rights.

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