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State and Local Animal Welfare Laws

Animal welfare legislation has been in place since the early 1600’s when the Puritans were settling in the New England colonies. Over 200 years later, in 1828, New York became the first state to pass an animal anti-cruelty law (N.Y. Revised Statutes, Title 6 Section 26, 1829). Many other states followed suit a few years after. Since then, all states have established their own animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws in addition to the current federal laws. Use the resources below to learn about state laws related to animal cruelty, commercial breeding, retail sale of pets, farm animal confinement, and more!

States' Animal Cruelty Statutes

Each state has laws to protect animals against cruelty, but these laws can vary greatly from state to state. Use The National Agricultural Law Center's clickable United States map to view each state's animal cruelty laws.

Table of Commercial Pet Breeder Laws

Michigan State University's College of Law, Animal Legal & Historical Center lays out state laws and administrative regulations affecting commercial dog breeders, such as minimum standards of animal care, inspection provisions, and penalties for violations. 

States' Farm Animal Confinement Statutes

Some U.S. states have enacted laws regarding farm animal confinement and require that animals be given a certain amount of housing space. The National Agricultural Law Center provides a clickable map of the United States to view state's farm animal confinement laws. 

Additional Pet and Livestock Laws

  • Sale of Pets at Retail Pet Stores

    Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal & Historical Center.

    The care of animals in pet stores is regulated by state laws. Find information regarding these state laws including "lemon laws," which protect customers who purchase sick animals. 

  • Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws

    Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal & Historical Center.

    This table provides an overview of state humane slaughter acts including an examination of the legal methods of slaughter, religious and ritual exemptions, animals covered, and the penalties for violation.

  • State Regulations for Importing Animals

    USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

    View animal import regulations for U.S. states. 

  • State Policies for Farm Animal Welfare in Production Practices of U.S. Livestock and Poultry Industries [pdf, 30 pages]

    USDA. Economic Research Service. 

    Since 2002, 14 U.S States have passed and implemented policies addressing practices that can impact farm animal welfare. This report describes the current state of these policies, the extent of their implementation and geographic coverage, and the legal environment and challenges these policies have faced.

  • State Directory

    National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. 

    Each state has its own Department of Agriculture. Use this site to access any state Department of Agriculture for viewing laws and regulations regarding animals. 

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