A national organization says Illinois is no longer the best state in the country when it comes to animal protection laws.
The annual study, compiled by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s protection laws, and ranks them accordingly.
After 12 years topping the list, Illinois has slipped to number two, behind Maine.
“Maine passed a courtroom animal advocate program law, which basically allows there to be a victim advocate in the courtroom for the animal victim,” said Kathleen Wood, staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “But Illinois is definitely not getting worse. It still has very comprehensive and strong laws overall.”
The organization says Illinois also stands out in part because of its felony animal fighting provisions for all species.
“Illinois has very comprehensive laws overall,” Wood said. “Veterinarians are required to report suspected animal cruelty, also juveniles and animal hoarders are required to undergo psychological evaluation and, if necessary, treatment.”
She says there’s room to get better in all states, especially in the area of possession bans, which allow a court to prohibit a person from owning or possessing an animal for a period of time after a conviction for animal cruelty.
“That’s one of the areas that Illinois could still improve,” Wood said. “Right now courts are allowed to impose a possession ban on a convicted cruelty offender, but they’re not required to.”
The organization points to shelter laws as a trend to watch nationally, which regulate the type of shelter that guardians must provide for their animals.
“In a lot of states, if you have a dog who lived outdoors, you’re required to provide that dog with some kind of shelter from the elements,” Wood said. “This year we saw four states stepping up the detail in those laws, spelling out exactly what kind of shelter you need to provide your animal to protect him or her.”
Oregon, Colorado, and Rhode Island round out the top five, while Idaho, Wyoming, and New Mexico rank at the bottom of this year’s list.
“New Mexico has the weakest animal protection laws,” Wood said. “One thing that they’re still lacking is a law prohibiting bestiality. They’re one of four states that still doesn’t have that law on the books.”
The full report can be found at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s website