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Utah's Animal-Protection Laws Rank in Bottom Five

In Utah, it is not mandatory that an owner forfeit a pet after being convicted of animal abuse; that decision is left up to the judge. (PETA)
In Utah, it is not mandatory that an owner forfeit a pet after being convicted of animal abuse; that decision is left up to the judge. (PETA)
January 23, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has some of the least punitive laws in the country for animal abuse and neglect, according to a new report. Researchers at the Animal Legal Defense Fund rated the Beehive State 47th in the country in its 12th annual Animal Protection Law rankings, coming out ahead of only Wyoming, Iowa and Kentucky.

Lora Dunn, with the ALDF, says one of the biggest issues for Utah is that it doesn't have a legal provision for including animals in a domestic-violence protection order.

"We know that often, human victims of domestic violence will not leave their abusive situations out of fear for what might happen to their pets - and then, don't leave the home," she says. "So, it's a really important tool for getting these folks out of harm's way, and getting the animals out of harm's way as well."

In Utah, veterinarians also aren't legally required to report suspicion of animal abuse. However, Dunn says the state has made some progress, adding a felony category for cases of extreme abuse or torture. And in 2015, Utah passed a law prohibiting cities from banning all dogs of any specific breed.

The report lists the states in the top five for protecting animals as Illinois at number one, followed by Oregon, Maine, California and Rhode Island.

Dunn says Utah law does not provide for extra penalties for multiple animal victims, or when the abuse is committed in front of a minor.

"Where a child is present during the abuse of an animal, perhaps in a domestic violence-type situation, that the penalty should be increased in those circumstances," she adds.

The report notes that Utah is one of the only states that leaves it up to a judge whether to force a convicted abuser to surrender the animal - something she says is mandatory in many other states.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT