Group says Maine tops in animal laws

Posted Dec. 18, 2009, at 12:08 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Maine has among the best animal protection laws in the country, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The organization ranked Maine among the top five states after an analysis of animal protection laws in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

Based on more than 3,800 pages of statutes and tracking 14 distinct categories of provisions, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s report “recognizes the states where animal law has real teeth — and calls out those where animal abusers get off easy.”

Maine, California, Illinois, Michigan and Oregon have the best laws on behalf of animals, the report states.

In the doghouse are Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Dakota — which ranked as the five “best states to be an animal abuser.”

Among the strengths the report highlighted in Maine’s animal protection laws are felony penalties for cruelty, neglect and abandonment, and enhanced penalties for repeat animal abusers. The state’s laws also apply to most animals. In addition, Maine courts may order counseling, cost recovery measures, forfeiture of animals, and restrictions on the future ownership of animals by abusers, the report states.

Despite the praise, however, the organization said there was still room for improvement in Maine. The report recommends stronger animal fighting provisions, enhanced penalties for animal abusers with prior domestic violence offenses and mandatory reporting of all suspected animal cruelty by veterinarians.

“This year we see many states and territories that are continuing to make outstanding progress with their laws. Unfortunately, there are still many places where the laws are incapable of providing the legal protections that our country’s animals need and deserve,” said Stephan Otto, Animal Legal Defense Fund’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report.

“Especially important during our country’s current recession are laws that help to save limited community resources by reducing the costs of caring for abused animals and ensuring that those who are responsible for such crimes shoulder this burden instead of taxpayers and private interests,” Otto said.

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