U.S. States With Felony-Level Animal Cruelty Laws
Method/Source: Using research provided by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, this indicator evaluates the existence of state felony-level laws relating to animal cruelty in four areas: abandonment, cruelty, neglect, and sexual abuse. Each state is given separate credit for establishing felonies in each of these areas, with a total of four “points” possible for each state. The goal is to have all 50 states with felony-level laws in each of the four areas. The score is calculated based on the number of state laws that are currently in place, as a proportion of the target of all states having felony-level laws in each of the four areas.
Number of felony-level laws (out of 4) by U.S. state
Number of laws: 0 1 2 3 4
Discussion: It is critically important to have strict penalties in place for those who commit acts of animal cruelty. Having misdemeanor-level laws in place is better than having no laws at all, but the severity of animal cruelty warrants felony-level penalties. Research has also shown that animal cruelty is closely linked with violence towards humans, in particular domestic violence, which underscores the need to identify, punish, and rehabilitate those who commit cruel acts toward animals. For these reasons, the goal for this indicator is to have all 50 states with felony-level animal cruelty laws.
Because animal cruelty involves a wide variety of neglectful and intentionally harmful acts, the indicator focuses on four common areas of animal abuse. We are measuring the existence of any felony-level law that covers one of the four areas of animal cruelty, regardless of the penalty. In total, 47 states have a felony-level law in at least one of the four areas included in the indicator. The states with no felony-level animal cruelty laws include Idaho, New Jersey, and North Dakota.