California Ranks Again as the Nation's Most Humane State, While the Dakotas, Mississippi at Bottom of List
According to our Humane State rankings for 2017, California remains the most humane state in the nation, comfortably ahead of number-two finisher Oregon and then Massachusetts, which has held the third position since 2016 when it approved a sweeping measure to restrict factory farming and to forbid the sale of veal, pork, and eggs if they come from extreme confinement operations.
California reinforced its leadership position by becoming the first state to ban pet stores from selling puppy mill dogs. Virginia took fourth place, while the fifth slot was held collectively by Washington, Colorado, and Illinois, which in 2017 banned the use of elephants in circuses and traveling shows.
Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota held steady at the other end of the spectrum as the worst policy performers of 2017. Wyoming and Idaho rounded out the other states at the bottom of the rankings. All of these states have poor anti-cruelty statutes and very limited or no protections for dogs used for commercial breeding and for farm animals. Those western states have very limited protections for wildlife and typically don’t forbid egregious wildlife abuses, such as contest hunts or captive hunts. Idaho and Wyoming allow trophy hunting and steel-jaw trapping of wolves, and officials and hunters in both states are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to open up a grizzly bear trophy hunting season. (The HSUS filed a lawsuit to block federal delisting of the bears and to maintain federal protections for them.)
The HSUS composes its Humane State rankings based on a wide set of animal welfare policies that cover more than 90 policy ideas, ranging from penalties for animal fighting to prohibiting bear and mountain lion hunting to providing incentives for low-cost spay and neuter programs for companion animals to improving the lives of animals raised for food.
Among the most notable performers this year were:
- Nevada, which climbed up two spots from 20th place in 2016, with the state legislature passing three noteworthy bills: one granted civil immunity to certain persons rescuing animals left unattended in cars in hot weather. The others banned bestiality, and the sale of ivory, shark fins and other wild animal parts.
- Pennsylvania climbed up from 18th place to 15th in 2017, after passing the Animal Abuse Statute Overhaul Bill that includes “Libre’s Law,” which creates stricter penalties for animal abusers. The bill also requires anyone convicted of felony animal cruelty to forfeit their animal, and addresses dogs tethered outdoors in inclement weather.
- Illinois jumped from ninth place in 2016 to fifth this year after passing not only the elephant protection law but also allowing dogs in research to be adopted, and passing a pet store sourcing bill.
- Indiana was among the biggest movers on the list, leapfrogging nearly a dozen states to go from 36th place last year to 25th place, passing a bill to prevent dog deaths in unattended cars, and a pet protection order for dogs in domestic violence cases.
- Texas saw the farthest climb, up from 43rd place last year to 29th this year. Among other actions, the state passed a law banning bestiality.
Here are some of the most notable legislative achievements of the year:
New York also banned the use of elephants in circuses and traveling shows, and dozens of local governments took even stronger action to stop wild animal acts.
This year South Carolina severely restricted the keeping of big cats, bears, and great apes. There are now only four states left with little or no laws restricting private possession of dangerous wild animals (Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin).
Maryland placed a moratorium on cownose ray killing contests, and we will continue to work toward seeing these cruel events stopped altogether.
We helped defeat a proposal in Vermont that would have opened up a spring bear-hunting season and allowed baiting of black bears, and another proposal in Virginia that would have expanded the bear hunting quota by a whopping 25 percent; after opposition from The HSUS and others it was reduced by half.
Nevada became the seventh state to outlaw the trade in parts and products from wild animals threatened by poaching and wildlife trafficking and the 12th state to end the sale of shark fins. Species protected in the new Nevada law include elephants, rhinos, sharks, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, pangolins, sea turtles, rays, narwhals, walruses, and hippopotamuses.
In West Virginia, The HSUS helped stop a misleadingly named “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment that would have permanently barred meaningful legislative reforms for chickens, cows, and pigs—on the heels of defeating a referendum of the same type in Oklahoma on the November 2016 ballot. In Oklahoma, we did have to rally again and fight off, with local allies, a “prosperity district” bill that would have exempted large swaths of the state from anti-cruelty protections.
We successfully fought back a whistleblower suppression bill in Maine, an effort to establish a pro-factory-farming commission in California, and multiple pro-factory-farming bills in Missouri.
Florida failed to pass a greyhound bill, but we may be able to get this issue into the state’s ballot this year if a proposal from former state Senate President Tom Lee continues to advance through the 37-member Constitutional Revision Commission.
We were able to stop, at least for 2017, bills in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee to bar localities from banning the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. Ohio, the second largest puppy mill state in the country, did pass such a preemption bill. We have, however, advanced a sweeping ballot measure in 2018 in the state to institute comprehensive reforms for commercial dog-breeding operations.
Altogether, The HSUS played a role in helping to pass 112 state laws (there were also 144 local animal welfare ordinances adopted). It’s also worth mentioning Ohio’s new livestock standards to ban extreme confinement of veal calves and tail docking of dairy cows took effect as 2017 closed, with the original policy-making action coming several years ago and the phase-in set for Jan. 1, 2018. Those new policies improve Ohio’s standing in our ratings.
Looking forward, we’re gearing up for a raft of new legislative sessions starting January, and we’ll count on you to communicate with your lawmakers and governors to lobby for the strongest possible improvements in the legal framework for animals.
P.S. For more details on how your state did in our Humane Rankings, visit our lists below:
This article was originally published by Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.