When Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill yesterday -- surrounded by dogs and dog lovers -- to curb some of the worst puppy mill abuses, he knew he was taking a major step forward for man's best friend. What he probably didn't know was that his humane action was part of a record-breaking year for animal protection lawmaking all across the country -- with HSUS and HSLF doing heavy lifting from coast to coast.
The Pennsylvania bill to prohibit large-scale puppy mill operators from crudely performing certain surgeries on dogs without anesthesia -- such as ear cropping, tail docking, debarking, and Caesarean births -- was the 107th new animal protection law passed by state legislatures in 2009. It helped to shatter last year's record of 93 new laws in the states, and with major states like California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York still in session and several animal protection bills on the march through the legislative process, that total number keeps growing.
The pace of animal protection lawmaking in the states, in fact, has been on a steady climb for years. From 2001 to 2008, there were 563 new animal protection laws enacted. With this year's bills, that means 670 new laws for animals in just nine years. And it's not just the quantity, but also the quality of how meaningful these policy reforms are in the lives of animals.
This year alone, Arkansas and Kansas became the 38th and 39th states to enact strong felony-level penalties for illegal cockfighting, with Arkansas also the 46th to have a felony law for malicious animal cruelty. Nevada became the 50th state to ban the training and possession of fighting dogs, and Illinois made it a first-offense felony to attend a dogfight. Four states -- Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington -- passed bills to crack down on abusive large-scale puppy mills, and a similar bill is pending in California. Oregon banned the possession of dangerous exotic animals as pets, and Maine phased out the extreme confinement of animals in crates and cages where they can barely move on industrial factory farms. A range of other new policies deal with pet trusts and protective orders, spay/neuter funding, horse abandonment, penalties for poaching, Internet hunting, and other important subjects.
It's an important marker for our cause that so many state legislators -- Democrats and Republicans, from urban and rural states -- are introducing animal protection bills, and working so hard to get these new laws over the finish line. This increasing level of support makes it more clear than ever that animal protection is being taken seriously as a public policy issue. We built our record and grew our ranks in a major way in 2009. Find out where your state stands on animal protection legislation, and help us charge forward for animals through the remainder of the year and into 2010.
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