Animals Win Big in 2017! Check Out the ASPCA’s Top Legislative Victories

December 18, 2017

a dog in an american flag bowtie

It was a banner year for animals from coast to coast! With the help of our dedicated animal advocates, the ASPCA helped secure a number of legislative wins for our furry friends. Check out the ASPCA’s top legislative victories from this year—and what they mean for animals—below. 

Remember, while we are thrilled to report this good news, we can’t forget there’s still so much work to be done for animals—and we can’t do it without your help. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to be alerted when local, state or federal animal-protection bills need your voice.

Congress Rejects the USDA Blackout

Although the fight is not over, heeding the call of the ASPCA and the overwhelming majority of Americans, the House Appropriations Committee included strong language in its Agriculture Appropriations Bill for 2018 directing the USDA to restore open, online access to animal welfare enforcement and inspection reports of federally regulated animal facilities such as zoos, commercial pet-breeding kennels, certain horse trainers and research labs. The USDA reversed its decade-long commitment to transparency when the inspection documents were suddenly taken offline in 2017.

California and D.C. Keep Pets in Homes 

Lack of pet-friendly housing is regularly cited as a reason that families relinquish their pets to shelters. Not only is this devastating for the family and the pet who is put at risk, but it also burdens already overcrowded shelters. Our advocacy helped convince lawmakers in California to pass legislation requiring all newly constructed state-financed housing to be pet-friendly, and led the District of Columbia Housing Authority in Washington, D.C., to replace its illegal public housing pet policy with one of the country’s most progressive. Both new policies will open up thousands of new homes each year to pets.

California Cracks Down on Puppy Mills

In October, California passed a landmark new law to eliminate the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits in the state’s pet stores, cutting off the puppy mill supply chain into the state’s pet stores starting in 2019. But that’s not all: Lawmakers in the state also passed legislation to curb a disturbing new trend known as “pet leasing,” predatory financial arrangements that appear to make purchasing a pet more accessible by offering the customer a low monthly payment often padded with large fees and interest. As of 2018, this new law will prohibit pet leasing and protect consumers from this unscrupulous lending practice. 

Georgia Stands Up for Animals and Local Governments

Dangerous pro-puppy-mill legislation was introduced in an attempt to prohibit the Georgia’s cities and counties from passing their own laws to keep cruelly bred puppies out of their pet stores. When it failed to pass in the House, the bill’s backers hijacked other, unrelated bills in a last-ditch effort to pass this harmful language. We are pleased to report several of Georgia’s leaders stood with the ASPCA and stopped this disastrous measure from passing into law.

Indiana Protects Pets from Domestic Abusers

All too often, animals are used as pawns in domestic disputes, leaving their owners trapped in dangerous situations. In June, Indiana became the latest state to allow pets to be included in domestic violence protective orders, offering protection for animals caught in this violent cycle and giving human victims the security they need to get help and keep pets out of the hands of abusers. 

New Jersey Strengthens Anti-Chaining and Proper Shelter Laws 

Under current New Jersey law, authorities can't always intervene in an animal cruelty situation, even when an animal is clearly in life-threatening danger. Legislation passed in August will clarify owner obligations around sheltering and tethering and enable New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies to better assist vulnerable animals. 

New York Shelters Get Funding Boost

New York State’s nonprofit SPCAs, humane societies and other animal rescue organizations often work with the government to provide sheltering services for homeless and abandoned animals, but the state provided little to no money to help offset costs. We are pleased that lawmakers pushed for and Governor Cuomo approved $5 million in new funds for the creation of the Companion Animal Capital Fund in the 2017-2018 budget to help shelters with essential structural repairs and improvements. 

Maryland Gets Serious About Cruelty

Veterinarians are often the first to spot the signs of abuse and play a critical role in protecting animals from mistreatment, so it is essential they speak up when they suspect an animal is being harmed. Maryland’s new mandatory reporting law requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty in the same way that doctors or teachers are required to report child abuse.

Breed Specific Law Struck Down in Ohio

In April, the ASPCA helped get a pit bull ban in the city of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, struck down on state constitutional grounds. While the Ohio Legislature removed breed-specific language from its statewide statute in 2012, many local governments have been slow to catch up. It seems that the court’s ruling may create momentum to repeal or invalidate the 80+ municipal breed-specific laws that remain on the books in Ohio.