This month, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill that makes New York the first state to ban cat declawing. The bill, first introduced in 2015 by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, goes into effect immediately. Though it makes exceptions for medical purposes, any other declawing procedure could lead to a fine of up to $1,000, which is a great step toward building a society that stands against animal cruelty.
Massachusetts is also considering banning the practice of cat declawing, which most animal advocates say is cruel, painful and completely unnecessary. The surgery involves amputating cats’s toes to the first knuckle, and bones are removed as well as the claws.
The passing of this bill exemplifies just how prevalent the topic of animal cruelty is for both state and federal government bodies this year.
The federal government is looking to build onto the anti-cruelty laws of all 50 states and officially make animal cruelty a federal offense. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act — otherwise known as PACT — will enable prosecutors to charge animal abusers if their violent acts cross state lines or if they cause harm on federal property.
Federal law already prohibits animal fighting and animal cruelty if the perpetrators create and/or sell videos of their acts. The PACT act would go one step further by criminalizing the abuse itself, instead of just its distribution in the media.
Also, California had multiple bills go into effect on January 1, 2019, one of which being part of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, which requires pet stores to only sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from shelters or nonprofits instead of breeders.
The law is directed at halting the mass breeding of domestic animals in facilities known as puppy mills, infamous for their mistreatment and exploitation of animals. In these mills, mother dogs spend their entire lives in cramped cages and are used as breeding machines. They receive little to no personal care, and, when mother and father dogs can no longer provide puppies, they are abandoned or killed.
And the conditions for the puppies are just as bad; due to poor sanitation and no veterinary care, they suffer from an overabundance of diseases, which are then left to their new adoptive families to handle.
There are an estimated 10,000 mills actively churning out millions of puppies yearly in the United States, but with new laws such as the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, the mass production of puppies and other animals can slow to a stop, thus halting a massive system of animal cruelty in the United States.
Also in California is a new bill that will give animals their own rights in divorce cases. Judges are now required to consider what is best for the animal and their wellbeing when deciding which spouse will get custody.
In Illinois, the Humane Care for Animals Act is a bill that has gone into effect, permitting law enforcement to take temporary custody and/or seek veterinary care for animals they find in life-threatening conditions.
Illinois police dogs have new protections under the Police-Service Dog Protection Act, which requires vehicles transporting a police dog to have a heat sensor and safety mechanism to lower the vehicle’s temperature if it is too hot for the dog.
This law has fostered an increased awareness of animal cruelty and has decreased the hundreds of dog deaths that annually result from being locked in a hot car. In the sun, car temperatures can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and will keep climbing with every passing minute. Even on a 70 degree day, your car can reach 110 degrees after just one hour.
Cars can easily become death traps for dogs. As a result, many states have provided protection for concerned citizens and law enforcement officers to prevent the death of dogs trapped in cars.
Pennsylvania has enacted a new law that allows authorities to save animals in a liability-free way. Now, law enforcement, animal control officers, humane society police officers and emergency responders can break into a vehicle without legal repercussions if they perceive a dog inside to be in danger.
This law makes Pennsylvania the 31st state to have some sort of law to help animals trapped in hot cars.
In New Jersey and West Virginia, it is illegal to leave a dog unattended in a hot car, but nobody has the authority to break into the car to save them.
In 14 states (Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and now Pennsylvania), it is only legal for public officials to break into cars.
In 15 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin), there are “good samaritan” laws that protect any person who breaks into a car to save an animal.
There are exceptions to each law depending on the state. For instance, Indiana requires the person breaking into the car to pay for half of the damage done, whatever the cost. In some states with “good samaritan” laws, before the act is considered legal, the person must call law enforcement prior to breaking into a car. And, in some states, “animal” is defined strictly as a domestic animal, i.e. a dog or a cat, which deliberately excludes livestock.
Even with some weird fine print, the well-being of animals has clearly taken an important place in politics. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and so many others advocate for animals within the United States. With legislative bodies giving these groups the platform they deserve, people can finally hear the barks, meows, squeaks and squawks of animals who just want to love and be loved.