December 30, 2014

Top 10 Legislative Victories for Animals in 2014

Top 10 Legislative Victories for Animals in 2014

Felony Cruelty in All 50 States
Earlier this year, more than two centuries after Massachusetts became the first state to punish animal cruelty as a felony offense, South Dakota became the 50th state to enact felony penalties for cruelty to animals. While reaching the 50-state mark is an exciting milestone, there is still much work to be done to strengthen these laws so they give law enforcement the tools they need to protect all animals from cruelty. In response to the horrific “Puppy Doe” case, Massachusetts upgraded its anti-cruelty laws as well.

Animals in Disasters Protected by Congress
When a hurricane hits or a large-scale dog fighting bust occurs, animals need vital veterinary care without delay. Congress passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which protects animals during crises by enabling veterinarians to perform life-saving services in the field. The law enables rapid response by allowing veterinarians to carry life-saving and pain-reducing drugs without fear of reprisal. Of the 8,359 pieces of legislation introduced in the 113th Congress in the past two years, this was one of just 296 bills signed into law.

U.S. Horse Slaughter Stopped in Its Tracks
The 2014 and 2015 omnibus federal spending bills now include a provision that prohibits the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter, effectively preventing butchering of horses on U.S. soil for FY2015. This victory builds momentum for our ultimate goal of banning the slaughter of American horses entirely and enables us to move forward with plans to stop the flow of our horses to other countries for this grisly purpose.

Puppy Mills Thwarted
The majority of states—most recently Minnesota—now have laws on the books to protect dogs in puppy mills. But until this year, there were no laws to stop pet stores from doing business with law-breaking puppy mills, particularly those located in other states. In May, Connecticut passed a groundbreaking law that prohibits pet stores from selling animals from breeders with certain violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act on their records. Similar legislation is currently on the desk of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The New York City Council just took it a step further by also prohibiting pet stores from doing business with USDA Class B dealers, puppy brokers who are notorious for obtaining animals from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources. In response to increasing online puppy sales, California established import requirements for puppies from other states. Federally, the United States Department of Agriculture issued its final regulation to ensure that the United States is not importing puppies for resale from puppy mills overseas.

Animal Fighting Takedown
The federal Farm Bill, signed into law in February, made it a federal crime to attend an animal fight and includes extra penalties for bringing children to an animal fight. And seven years after becoming the last state to make cockfighting a crime, Louisiana increased penalties and closed loopholes in its anti-cockfighting statute.

Domestic Violence Threat Addressed
Recognizing the link between violence toward humans and violence toward animals, lawmakers in Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia all passed laws allowing judges to include pets in orders of protection for victims of domestic violence. Twenty-eight states now have these laws.

Breed Discrimination Is No More at State Level
In order to reverse a 2012 court ruling that created a statewide policy of breed discrimination in Maryland, the Legislature passed a new dog-bite liability law that does not single out pit bull-type dogs. There are now no statewide breed-discriminatory laws, and 18 states—most recently South Dakota and Utah—actually prohibit localities from enacting breed-specific legislation.

Greyhound Racing On Its Way Out
This year, legislation banning this cruel enterprise passed in Colorado, and Iowa passed legislation that shut down one of its two remaining dog racing tracks. Arizona also enacted a law requiring reporting of Greyhound racing injuries. Greyhound racing is now illegal in 39 states, with tracks still operating in only seven states.

Wildlife Gain Greater Protections
Virginia lawmakers approved legislation that will phase out the cruel blood sport of fox penning; Michigan voters repealed two pro-wolf hunting measures at the ballot box; Illinois enacted protections for wolves, bears and cougars; and New York and New Jersey became the first states to ban the sale of ivory from rhinos and elephants.

Dangerous “Ag-Gag” Bills Defeated Overwhelmingly
Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming all attempted to shut the barn doors to any potential scrutiny of farming practices by introducing “ag-gag” legislation. These unpopular bills, designed to thwart animal cruelty investigations in agricultural settings, were stopped. (But Idaho did pass an ag-gag law in 2014 that is now under fire.)

Congress and most state legislatures will reconvene in January, launching another year of opportunities to strengthen protections for animals. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade below to stay informed of pending animal-protection legislation in your area as we head into 2015.