California has the strongest animal protection laws in the country, with wide-ranging regulations shielding animals from harm in homes, on farms, at racetracks and in the wild, the Humane Society of the United States reported Monday.
In an analysis of laws in all 50 states, the animal welfare advocates ranked the Golden State No. 1 for the legal protections it has enacted across the animal kingdom.
New Jersey, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts also scored high in the national rankings. Idaho and South Dakota earned the lowest scores, in part for their failure to make egregious animal cruelty a felony or to outlaw cockfighting.
California scored 45 on a 65-point checklist for laws governing conditions for pets, livestock and wild animals. It is one of the few states that outlaws the use of animals in product testing when an alternative exists and gives students the right to choose an alternative to animal dissection in schools.
The state prohibits all forms of animal fighting and the keeping of primates, venomous snakes, bears, wolves and big cats as pets. It also outlaws force-feeding of geese for the production of foie gras, battery cages for egg-laying hens and tail-docking of dairy cows.
Bear hunting is allowed in the state but trade in bear parts is prohibited. In equine protection, California is one of only four states to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
"The trends are positive, but there are major gaps in the law throughout the nation," said Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society president. "Anemic animal protection laws in many states will allow cruelty and abuse to continue, and that must change."
The report said the Humane Society helped pass 121 laws last year to strengthen animal protection.