An animal is abused every 10 seconds in America. Such abuse can come in many forms—from improper food, water, and shelter, to lack of medical care and even physical beatings. Yet most of these incidents go unreported, perpetuating a cycle of abuse and neglect. Fortunately, there is hope. To help raise awareness and work to end animal cruelty, the ASPCA designated April as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.
First, let’s look at 5 states making a difference by progressing animal abuse legislation. Then, we’ll review some key ways you can help prevent animal cruelty.
5 States Leading the Fight against Animal Cruelty
Laws aimed at ending animal cruelty vary widely from state to state, and often differ in scope, protections, and penalties. Each year the Animal Legal Defense Fund compiles vital statistics on the animal cruelty laws in each state and issues a Rankings Report [PDF] noting the best (and worst) states for animal protection laws. The 2017 report, issued in January, ranks the following states as the best in the nation for animal protection legislation.
A consistent leader in the fight against animal cruelty, Illinois has some of the most far-reaching and toughest anti-cruelty laws in America. Illinois’ strengths include felony penalties for cruelty, neglect, fighting, and abandonment. Protections under Illinois law are broad, covering most animals, and define a basic minimum standard of care. Illinois courts have the power to seize animals from abusive owners and to prohibit those owners from acquiring new animals. Repeat offenders are subject to strict penalties.
Second only to Illinois, Oregon’s animal protection laws encompass a wide range of protections for most animals. Courts have the right to demand forfeiture of animals from an accused abuser before conviction and can order mandatory restrictions on future pet ownership for convicted offenders. Cases of abuse discovered by veterinarians must be reported to law enforcement, and strict anti-dog-fighting laws are in place. Stricter penalties accompany repeat convictions for animal abuse.
California law offers a wide range of protections for animals and enforces penalties for those convicted of abuse or willful neglect. Strengths include felony status for abuse, neglect, and dog-fighting, as well as pre-conviction forfeiture of animals by accused abusers, prohibitions against future pet ownership by convicted offenders, restitution payments, and a robust incident reporting system.
Ranked fourth is Maine, based on its broad range of animal protections and felony status for abuse, neglect, and dog-fighting. Courts may order restitution and impose recovery restrictions for impounded animals. Laws on pre-conviction forfeiture of abused pets, recovery of care costs for abused animals, and restrictions on future pet ownership are also in place.
5. Rhode Island
Fifth ranked Rhode Island features many of the protections and restrictions listed above, with the important distinction that it prohibits breed-specific legislation.
How You Can Help Prevent Animal Cruelty
Winning the fight against animal cruelty is a group effort, and we need your help. Here are some important ways you can take action in your area:
If You Witness Animal Cruelty, Report It. The vast majority of animal cruelty incidents go unreported, so if you witness animal cruelty, report it. Signs of cruelty and neglect may include: animals chained outside without access to shelter, animals without adequate access to food or water, animals with obvious health problems that require immediate attention, animals with severe parasitic infestation or disease, or signs that an animal may have been used in dog fighting or as a “bait dog.”
Adopt a Shelter Animal. Adopting an animal from a shelter is one sure way to provide a loving home to an abused or neglected animal. It also helps lighten the burden on shelters, which are often strapped for resources as they attempt to cope with the large numbers of abused, neglected, or abandoned animals in their communities.
Donate to a Local Shelter. If you’re not in a position to adopt, you can stull donate to your local animal shelter. This will help them meet the often-daunting daily expenses of providing medical care, food, shelter, and supplies to the animals they house.
Raise Awareness on Social Media. Social media is a powerful way to spread the word about ending animal cruelty. Use the hashtag #fightcruelty and tag @aspca in your posts.
Wear Orange to Show Your Support. During the month of April you can show your support for animal rights by wearing orange. An orange scarf, hat, gloves, or pin can show that you care, and when people ask, you can tell them about the ways they can help win the fight against animal cruelty.
Animal cruelty is a far-reaching and tragic problem in modern society. Fortunately, some states and municipalities have taken up the cause and are actively enforcing policies that protect animals from abuse, neglect, and abandonment. We hope that you join us in doing your part, not only during April, but throughout the year!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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