Pets are our heroes, and they provide us with unconditional love every day. However, as much as Americans love their pets, legal protections for our furry best friends vary from state to state, and sometimes from city to city or county to county. Fortunately, society has begun to recognize animal abuse as part of the cycle of violence, and we are happy to have seen an uptick in states toughening animal cruelty legislation in recent years, but tragically, some are still lagging behind.
Last week, the state of Illinois announced it will be expanding its animal cruelty laws. Starting on January 1, 2022, courts will have the ability to ban you or someone in the same home from having control of animals if convicted of two or more of these offenses:
- Violation of aggravated cruelty
- Violation of animals for entertainment
- A violation of dogfighting
American Humane applauds this effort to further protect our animal companions. By disallowing animal abusers their right to have a pet in the home after an offense, we can defend so many more animals and erase the risk of animals being continuously abused. If someone hurts an animal once, it is likely they will do it again.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report (2019), Illinois ranked as the best state for animal protection laws for the 12th consecutive year. The state imposes felony penalties for cruelty, neglect, fighting, abandonment and sexual assault of animals. Meanwhile, Wyoming, Kentucky, New Mexico, Iowa and Mississippi rank as the worst states because of relatively light punishments for aggravated cruelty.
We hope other states will follow in Illinois’ footsteps and be inspired to strengthen their own animal cruelty laws. Animals should always be treated with the utmost respect, and we call on all states, cities and counties across the nation to enforce stronger penalties against abusers. It is only harsh penalties that will truly inhibit this barbarity.
If you do witness animal abuse or neglect, report it to your local animal control, law enforcement or humane organization. By speaking up, you could save a life.