puppy in cage.jpg

For a second straight year, Illinois has been ranked second-best in the country when it comes to animal protection laws.

The annual study, compiled by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, assesses the strength of each state’s animal protection laws by examining more than 3,400 pages of statutes. Each state is ranked based on 20 different categories of animal protection.

“Illinois has a lot of great laws when it comes to actually protecting animals,” said Kathleen Wood, staff attorney with ALDF. “Their definition of animals encompasses all animals. There's a number of states that will exclude groups like fish or wild animals from their definition. Another great thing that Illinois does is require psychological evaluations for animal hoarders and for juveniles who are convicted of animal cruelty.”

Wood says even with the high placement in the study, there are steps Illinois could take to improve.

“One of the best things that it could do is actually require convicted animal cruelty offenders to forfeit their animals,” Wood said. “Once they're convicted right now, it's up to the judge whether or not they'll actually order that an abused animal will return to their abuser.”

Illinois ranked at the top of the list for 12 consecutive years until the 2020 report when Maine jumped to number one. One major difference between the states is the presence of an animal advocate program

“That actually allows a third-party advocate in to advocate for the interests of the victim animal,” Wood said. “There is a bill in Illinois now to establish one of those programs.”

A new Illinois law that took effect at the start of 2022 prevents residents with two or more abuse and neglect charges from legally owning an animal. Other states also are making changes.

“One of the new trends this year was cross-reporting,” Wood said. “States are enacting laws that either require or explicitly permit social service agencies to report animal cruelty when they see it in their day to day jobs.”

Oregon, Colorado, and Rhode Island round out the top five on the list, while New Mexico is ranked at the bottom. The state is among two that still do not have a law criminalizing the sexual assault of animals.

“In New Mexico, the definition of animals excludes uncaptured wild animals and reptiles,” Wood said. “Those are huge categories of animals that are just not protected under the animal cruelty laws.”

The full report is available at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s website.