The year 2008 was an historic year for animals in state lawmaking. The Humane Society of the United States worked on a wide range of animal protection policy reforms, such as increasing penalties to crack down on animal fighting, making meaningful progress on combating puppy mills and prohibiting the inhumane confinement of farm animals. The nation's largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.
"We commend state lawmakers for passing this raft of legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "The anti-cruelty laws of a state are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and this record year and collection of bills represent a measurable step forward for animals all across the country." While there were many successes around the country, The Humane Society of the United States offers up its list of the 12 most significant victories of the year:
California: Proposition 2
The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, known as Prop. 2, is widely regarded as the most ambitious ballot measure for animals ever undertaken in the United States. And on Nov. 4, 63.5 percent of California voters approved this measure to halt the practice of confining veal calves, egg-laying hens and breeding pigs in crates and cages so small the animals can barely move.
Colorado: Farm Animal Welfare
The HSUS negotiated with leaders in Colorado's animal agriculture industry and key lawmakers to improve the lives of farm animals. As a result, Colorado became the first state to ban both the use of both veal crates and gestation crates through its state legislature.
Delaware: Fur Labeling
Delaware became the fourth state in the nation to require the labeling of garments containing animal fur. An investigation by The HSUS found that unlabeled jackets were falsely advertised and sold as faux fur, even though testing revealed that the garments actually contained real fur from raccoon dogs and other animals.
In the aftermath of the Michael Vick case, more than 25 states considered legislation in 2008 to crack down on animal fighting. Until this year, Georgia was ranked as having one of the worst dogfighting laws in the country. But state lawmakers worked to close gaps in the law by banning the possession of a dog with the intent to fight, and making it a crime to be a spectator at a dogfight. The HSUS now places Georgia among the states with the strongest dogfighting laws.
In February, animal advocates celebrated another victory when Idaho became the 49th state to make dogfighting a felony.
Louisiana: Puppy Mills
Puppy mills are breeding facilities that treat dogs like cash crops and typically house dogs in squalid and overcrowded conditions. One of our biggest legislative victories against this industry was in Louisiana, where the legislature passed precedent-setting legislation that placed an actual limit on the number of dogs kept by breeders, in order to prevent the operation of factory farm type breeding facilities. With this new law, breeding operations are now limited to no more than 75 adult dogs.
Massachusetts: Question 3
Last month, Massachusetts voters approved Question 3 to phase out the greyhound racing industry. At these tracks, thousands of greyhounds are forced to compete every year and endure regular confinement, kept in small cages barely large enough to stand up or turn around for 20 or more hours per day. It's expected that this sweeping victory will speed up the demise of this industry, and will also send a message to other states that dogs deserve better.
Pennsylvania: Puppy Mills
Notoriously known as the "Puppy Mill Capital of the East," the Keystone State has been tarnished with the reputation of being one of the worst puppy mill states in the nation. National television coverage highlighted the horrific conditions in the Commonwealth's puppy mills. But with efforts spearheaded by Gov. Ed Rendell, the state legislature took a strong stance against this abusive industry and passed a bill that should significantly improve the lives of thousands of dogs in Pennsylvania, and took a strong stance against this abusive industry.
Utah: Felony Cruelty
After a multi-year effort by animal protection groups, veterinarians, prosecutors and others, Utah became the 44th state with felony-level animal cruelty penalties. After hammering out a compromise bill, the legislature made the torture of a dog or cat a felony on the first offense. We look forward to working with lawmakers in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota to get felony animal cruelty laws on the books across the United States.
Virginia: Animal Fighting and Puppy Mills
We toughened the Commonwealth's previously anemic animal fighting laws, turning it into one of the nation's hardest-hitting laws against cockfighting and dogfighting. Until this year, The HSUS rated Virginia's anti-cockfighting law as the second-worst in the nation — in fact, cockfighting was legal as long as the activity involved no gambling.
An HSUS investigation in 2007 revealed that Virginia had a serious puppy mill problem, with approximately 1,000 unlicensed breeders in Virginia selling dogs commercially. Virginia lawmakers addressed this serious problem in 2008 by becoming the first state in the nation to limit the size of puppy mills by making it illegal to maintain more than 50 dogs over the age of one year in one location.
After Idaho its new dogfighting law in February, Wyoming was the only state without felony penalties for dogfighting. But in March, lawmakers in the Equality State ushered in a new era for animal protection by making this cruel blood sport a felony nationwide.
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