Alabama Becomes Second-Worst State for Animal Protection Laws

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, North Dakota is now ranked as the worst state for animal protection laws. This information comes from the annual U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a leading organization that advocates for animals in legal matters.

The 18th annual year-end report (2023) is the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind. It evaluates the animal protection laws of each U.S. state and territory, and ranks them based on their strengths and weaknesses.

The states with the weakest animal protection laws are North Dakota (50th), Alabama (49th), Idaho (48th), South Carolina (47th), and Kentucky (46th). Oregon is in first place, followed by Maine in second place, Illinois in third place, Massachusetts in fourth place, and Colorado in fifth place.

Alabama is ranked 49th because state lawmakers have not passed several important protections yet. For instance, in Alabama, the highest punishment for participating in cockfighting is a $50 fine according to state law. This penalty for cockfighting is the least severe among all 50 states and does not do much to discourage people from engaging in this activity. In Alabama, there are no laws that require psychological evaluations or counseling for people who commit animal cruelty, regardless of how serious the offense is.

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The report mentions a new trend called “bond-or-forfeit” laws. These laws help reduce the financial burden on cities and counties that take care of animals seized in animal cruelty cases. It can take a long time, possibly months or even years, for a criminal case to be completely resolved. During that time, the animals affected are often in a legal gray area. They are taken care of by a local shelter, but still legally owned by the person responsible.

The expenses of taking care of these animals add up fast, especially if the animals need a lot of medical care to recover from their neglect or abuse. “Bond-or-forfeit” laws solve this problem by giving the defendant two options: either pay a bond to cover the costs of taking care of the animal, or give up their ownership rights to the animal so it can be adopted by someone else.

“Every year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is happy to see that many places are making their animal protection laws stronger to make animals’ lives better,” says Chris Green, the Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “However, this yearly assessment reveals that every state and territory, regardless of their position, still has areas where they can do better. We need more laws to make sure that all animals are equally protected throughout the country.”

The rankings show how seriously each state takes animal protection. They are based on a thorough review of each state’s animal protection laws, which includes over 3,600 pages of statutes.

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