The Humane Society of the United States has released its second annual "Humane State Ranking," a comprehensive report rating all 50 states on a wide range of animal protection laws dealing with pets, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife, animals in research, horses, and farm animals.
We're not from here. I wish I had a nickel for each time I've uttered those words - mostly to disclaim connection to Missouri. In fact, it's true. We're not from here and do not plan to stay here for the rest of our lives. Because we plan to move when we retire, I'm always interested in the lists that rank various states or areas of the US on a slew of issues, lifestyles, and so on. So, it was with great deal of self-interest that I checked out this HSUS list.
According to the HSUS report, in 2010, California topped the list, followed by New Jersey, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts. This year, Illinois moved into third place, due to passage of a raft of important animal protection measures during the 2010 legislative session, including bills to prohibit the keeping of primates as pets and to protect animals from antifreeze poisoning.
Also making great strides were Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska. Oklahoma, one of the top three puppy-producing states in the country, gained major points for passing a comprehensive puppy mill bill in 2010, and also passed legislation protecting pets in domestic violence situations and for allowing the creation of pet trusts. Louisiana, which was the last state to ban cockfighting in 2006, strengthened its laws for spectators of cockfights. And Alaska gained points for making egregious acts of cruelty a felony on the first offense and for closing a loophole that allowed the possession of chimpanzees as pets.
At the bottom of the list, the states with the weakest animal protection laws are Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota, with South Dakota ranking last with a score of eight out of 65. Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota got low marks in part because they are the only four states in the country with no felony penalty for egregious acts of animal cruelty. Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota are also among the 11 states that do not have felony-level penalties for cockfighting. Ohio is expected to move up in the ranking if the state follows through with a series of eight reforms advanced by The HSUS and agricultural groups in the state to deal with cockfighting, puppy mills, exotic pets, and factory farming issues.
The ranking was based on 65 different animal protection issues in 10 major animal protection categories including: animal fighting; animal cruelty; puppy mills; use of animals in research; equine protection; wildlife abuse; factory farming; fur and trapping; exotic animals; and companion animal laws.
RANK STATE SCORE OUT OF 65
1 California 45
2 New Jersey 40
3 Illinois 39
3 Massachusetts 39
5 Tie: Colorado 38 ; Maine 38
7 Tie: New York 37; Vermont 37; Disctrict of Columbia 37
10 Tie: Oregon 36 ; Washington 36
12 Tie: Connecticut 35; New Hampshire 35; Pennsylvania 35; Virginia 35
16 Tie: Florida 34; Louisiana 34
18 Michigan 33
19 Tie: Arizona 32 ; Maryland 32
21 Tie: Iowa 29; Nebraska 29; Rhode Island 29
24 Tennessee 28
25 Tie: Delaware 27; New Mexico 27
27 Tie: Georgia 26; Oklahoma 26
29 Wisconsin 25
30 Tie: Minnesota 24; Nevada 24
32 Tie: Kansas 23; North Carolina 23
34 Indiana 22
35 Alaska 21
36 Texas 20
37 West Virginia 20
38 Tie: Arkansas 19; Kentucky 19; Montana 19; South Carolina 19 ; Utah 19; and Wyoming 19
44 Missouri 18
45 Tie: Alabama 17; Hawaii 17; Ohio 17
48 Tie: Mississippi 13; 48 North Dakota 13
50 Idaho 9
51 South Dakota 8
It certainly does not surprise me that Missouri is so far down at the bottom of the list. I shudder to think what Missouri's rank would be if we had not passed MO Prop B - the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Would Missouri have been at the very bottom?
I must admit that it looks like my feelings of geographic shame could be worse. We could be living in Idaho or South Dakota.