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ASPCA's Top 10 state legislative victories in 2013

Special to the Courier

In 2013, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is celebrating meaningful changes in state animal welfare laws that will improve the lives of thousands of animals across the country.
Last year, the ASPCA worked with state legislators and other humane advocacy groups to score 87 victories for animals by enacting new laws or defeating hostile legislation, making 2013 one of the most successful years for our animal welfare policy work.
Here is a small sampling of new laws that the ASPCA and its Advocacy Brigade helped secure - as well as misguided bills we helped defeat - in 2013:
• Maryland passed a law to establish one of the strongest, most robustly-funded statewide spay-neuter programs in the country, and West Virginia enacted a comprehensive spay-neuter program as well. These new laws will help reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia of healthy animals.
• In Texas, cruel and unnecessary gas chambers can no longer be used to euthanize animals in shelters.
• Working with a coalition of animal welfare, environmental, and human rights organizations, the ASPCA helped ensure that none of the 11 ag-gag bills introduced in 2013 - in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming - were passed into law.
Pushed by industrial agribusiness, these bills were blatant attempts to cover up illegal and unethical activities on factory farms. Defeating them was critical not only for the protection of animals and the whistleblowers exposing their mistreatment, but also for the safety of the public.
• Thanks to groundbreaking legislation passed in Colorado, law enforcement officers will receive training on canine behavior and alternative methods to the use of lethal force in order to reduce accidental dog shootings. A new law in New York State will increase criminal penalties for the intentional killing of police dogs and horses.
• In California, legislation passed that will phase out lead ammunition for hunting throughout the state to protect wildlife, who are at risk of ingesting contaminated remains, as well as California's diverse ecosystem.
• This was a phenomenal year for animals in Nevada, where seven animal protection bills passed, including legislation to ban horse tripping, enhance penalties for animal fighting and protect wild horses.
• In New Jersey, penalties for neglect have been strengthened with the passage of "Patrick's Law," named after a dog that was nearly starved to death, put in a trashbag and then thrown down a garbage chute.
• Illinois enacted new laws protecting chained dogs, stray farm animals, puppy mill puppies and animals that fall victim to animal fighting.
• Animals in Alabama and Ohio are safer from abuse thanks to new laws that strengthen cruelty penalties.
• ASPCA-backed legislation passed in Connecticut established a task force to study the origin of dogs and cats in pet shops that will, ideally, pave the way for groundbreaking legislation in 2014 to prevent pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies.
Many state legislatures will reconvene in January, and the ASPCA looks forward to expanding protections for even more for animals in all 50 states.
To find out about animal advocacy events in your area and how you can be more involved in the fight to protect animals, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center.