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Illinois Tops Nation in Protecting Pets

An animal-rights group says Illinois is once again leading the nation in legal protections for pets. (AlinaGolovko/Morgufile.com)
An animal-rights group says Illinois is once again leading the nation in legal protections for pets. (AlinaGolovko/Morgufile.com)
December 18, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - For the eighth year in a row, Illinois is topping the list of states that are doing the most to bolster animal-protection laws. A new report from the Animal Legal Defense Fund shows that, overall, the country is doing better by its pets - but especially Illinois.

Lora Dunn, staff attorney at the defense fund, said the state is staying at the top for several reasons, including Illinois' felony penalties for cruelty or even neglecting an animal.

"Not all states have felony penalties for neglect, which in many cases where animals are not given adequate basic care, those animals suffer for a very long period of time," she said. "So, often those are the worst cases that prosecutors encounter."

Another positive cited by the report was that Illinois' courts are allowed to force convicted animal abusers to give up custody of victimized pets. Still, as with much of the country, Dunn said, the state always can do more by making that rule mandatory.

Another area where the report suggested that Illinois can make improvements is by mandating that police officers enforce animal protections.

"In many states, if law enforcement has reasonable belief, or even a stronger probable cause to believe that animal cruelty is occurring," she said, "law enforcement is actually required to take action and investigate the situation."

While more states are making animal cruelty a felony, Dunn said, states such as Wyoming, Iowa and Kentucky rank at the bottom because, among other reasons, they do not treat animal neglect as a felony crime.

"We're hopeful that the public will look at where their laws rank and contact their representatives, get involved, work toward new and stronger animal-protection legislation," she said.

A report synopsis is online at aldf.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL