A national organization says Illinois is the best state in the country when it comes to animal protection laws

A national organization says Illinois is the best state in the country when it comes to animal protection laws. (Photo courtesy: WJBC/File)

By Illinois Radio Network

SPRINGFIELD – A national organization says Illinois is the best state in the country when it comes to
animal protection laws.

The annual study, compiled by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, assessed the strengths
and weaknesses of each state’s animal protection laws and ranks them accordingly. Kathleen
Wood, staff attorney with the organization, said it was no surprise the state topped the list for
the 12th straight year.

“[Illinois] has the most comprehensive protections for all species of animals,” Wood said.
“They also have really great psychological evaluation laws. It requires any juveniles or
animal hoarders who are convicted to undergo a psychological evaluation and treatment.”

The organization says Illinois also stands out because of its requirement that veterinarians
report suspected animal cruelty. A number of states do allow for the reporting of
incidents, though in Kentucky it’s actually prohibited.

“Illinois is unique in that its laws are extremely comprehensive for all species of
animals,” Wood said. “A lot of states have limited definitions of what even constitutes an
animal. Some exclude fish or other types of animals.”

A recent national trend has resulted in more than 30 states that now have laws
addressing animals trapped in hot cars.

“There are over thirty states now that have laws that allow either police or civilians to
enter the car and remove the animal,” Wood said. “In Illinois, a police officer or first
responder can enter the vehicle to get the animal out, but it doesn’t give immunity for
civilians to do that.”

In spite of the state’s high marks, Wood said there is room to improve, specifically
with what happens to an animal after an owner has been convicted.

“In Illinois right now, it’s really up to the court’s discretion whether the animal will be
forfeited or returned to the owner,” Wood said. “And they also leave it up to the judge
whether the person is going to get a possession ban, which means they’re prohibited from
owning or possessing animals for a period of time. We would really like to see possession
bans and forfeitures mandatory after somebody been convicted of animal cruelty.”

After Illinois on the list comes Oregon, Colorado and Maine. Wood said there have been
some significant improvements in just the past couple of years.

“Over the past two years, 12 states have enacted or strengthened their possession ban
laws,” Wood said. “One of the biggest trends this year dealt with animal fighting
paraphernalia – criminalizing the possession of things like breaking sticks or gas that are
used in animal fighting operations.”

New Mexico, Iowa, and Mississippi hold the bottom three spots on the list. Wood said
even those states have put better laws onthe books, thanks in part to the work of the
Animal Legal Defense Fund.

“Over the last 14 years one of the biggest drives is just the number of felony animal
cruelty laws that there are across the nation,” Wood said. “When we started this, there
were only a handful of states that even had felony cruelty laws. Now all 50 states do.”

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