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700 and Counting

Progress for animals spreads state-by-state.

Humane Activist magazine, May/June 2013

In mid-March, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed two new bills into law. One allows law enforcement agencies to use funds to purchase bulletproof vests for police dogs; the other provides adoption options for such dogs once they retire. And with that, the animal protection movement hit another major milestone: U.S. states have now enacted 700 new animal protection laws since 2005.

“In just eight years, animal protection advocates have completely reshaped the legal framework in the states, and we now have stronger protections on the books for pets, wildlife, and farm animals,” HSLF president Michael Markarian says. “There is more awareness of animal protection issues every day, more advocates getting involved in the legislative process, and more lawmakers embracing these common-sense reforms.”

The push toward 700 new state laws has included multi-state efforts to crack down on puppy mill cruelty, animal fighting spectators, the extreme confinement of breeding pigs, the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals, cockfighting, and the cruel practice known as hog-dog fighting.

Dogfighting is now a felony crime in all 50 states. Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 and a felony in 40. And all but two states—North Dakota and South Dakota—now have felony-level penalties in place to address animal cruelty.

And there are more laws on the horizon. Among them:

  • The Maryland General Assembly has passed a bill banning the trade in shark fins. The legislation now awaits Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature, which would make Maryland the sixth state to crack down on shark finning.
  • In Arkansas, a bill banning the ownership of primates as pets is awaiting Gov. Mike Beebe’s signature.
  • By a 60-5 vote, the New Jersey Assembly has approved a ban on gestation crates for breeding pigs. The bill now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.
  • At press time, the West Virginia House was considering bills—already passed in the Senate—to establish regulations for large-scale dog breeders and provide for spay/neuter funding.

Re-printed from the May/June 2013 issue of Humane Activist, the full-color bimonthly membership magazine of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. To become a member and receive a one-year subscription to Humane Activist, simply make a donation at the $10 level or higher.