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Advocates: Illinois Ranks First In Animal Protection Laws

CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois ranks first among states with the best animal protection laws in the U.S. according to a new report issued by a leading animal advocacy group. Kentucky ranks the worst.

"In states like Illinois, people are caring more and more about animals," says Animal Legal Defense Fund staff attorney Lora Dunn, who edited the ALDF's "2013 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings."

The report analyzed thousands of pages of statutes covering animal protection in all 50 states and U.S. territories. ALDF also reviewed animal cruelty cases across the country.

Advocates: Illinois Ranks First In Animal Protection Laws

Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming have the worst animal protection laws. Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Maine and California have some of the best laws. Illinois has been in the top five since 2006.

"Some of the downfalls among the worst five states were having inadequate cost of care provisions, inadequate standards of care and a lot of these states also do not have felony provisions for cruelty, neglect, animal fighting and sexual assault," says Dunn.

Kentucky ranked as the worst for the seventh year in a row.

"Kentucky prohibits veterinarians from reporting animal cruelty." Most other states encourage the practice.

According to Dunn, Illinois' strengths include having felony penalties for animal cruelty, neglect, abandonment and animal fighting. Illinois also allows protective orders to include animals.

"So when a court gives a protective order in a domestic violence case, that court can allow by statute to allow an animal to be included in that order."

Over the last five years, Dunn says more than three-quarters of states have improved their animal protection laws. But more can be done even here in Illinois.

"Illinois could add stronger provisions for neglect and abandonment, making animal cases a priority on the court calendar and mandating the forfeiture of an animal when an abuser is convicted of cruelty so that abuser cannot go on and harm animals in the future."

Despite horrific stories of animal cruelty in the news, Dunn says there is noteworthy improvement in animal protection across the country.

"As animal protection laws become more prevalent, people are becoming more aware of animal abuse and cruelty as a very real thing. I think that people in the community being eyes and ears helps brings this to light and helps remedy the situation. As horrendous as all of these things are, we are confident that we're continuing to receive justice for these animals."

To listen to the full interview with Lora Dunn, click here.

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