Animal Welfare Laws
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Animal Welfare Laws In The US

| December 8, 2023

Being animal lovers, we are always concerned about the safety and well-being of animals that tend to live within our locality or region. 

In the United States, there are distinctive laws that are considered to be animal welfare laws. 

In this article, we will be discussing the various animal welfare laws that exist for the well-being of animals residing within the United States. 

Animal Welfare Laws That Protect Animals

Within the United States, it has been noted that animal protection laws are enacted and enforced at every level of government. 

Most of the animal welfare laws that tend to exist within the United States are generally observed within the levels of the state. 

On the other hand, a handful of federal laws tend to exist with the aim of animal welfare. Moreover, cities and counties in the US are also known to pass ordinances for the protection of animals. 

Due to this, it is extremely vital for advocating for animal welfare and rights with lawmakers at every level of government for the purpose of creating effective animal welfare laws. 

Federal Animal Welfare Laws

In the United States, there are only a few federal laws that are aimed at animal welfare. The few are stated below: 

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is one of the primary federal laws that was signed in 1966 with the aim of protecting animals within the United States. 

The AWA mainly addresses the rights and protection of animals that are kept in zoos, and used in laboratories, along with animals that are commercially used for breeding and sold in puppy mills. 

The AWA has been noted to direct the “Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture” to set minimum standards for animal welfare. This includes handling, transportation, care, and treatment of animals. 

Cockfighting and dogfighting are also criminalized under the AWA. 

The 28-Hour Law 

This law was enacted in the year 1873 that enabled vehicles transporting animals for slaughter to stop every 28 hours to provide water, exercise, and food to the animals. 

This law is not enforceable for vehicles that tend to have the availability of water and food within the transportation. 

On the other hand, chicken and turkey, that is the most farmed poultry in the United States, are exempted from this federal law. 

The Humane Methods Of Livestock Slaughter Act

The law was first enacted in 1958 and then amended in 1978. 

The Humane Methods Of Livestock Slaughter Act states that the animal that is planned for slaughter shall be stunned into unconsciousness before slaughter to reduce the pain. 

Chicken, turkey, and other birds that are slaughtered are not included in this act, which makes it an inconsistent law. 

The Endangered Species Act

This act was enacted in the year 1973 that protects birds, mammals, fish, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered within the United States. 

The ESA has produced guidelines for criminal and civil penalties for violation of the law. 

The PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty And Torture) Act

The PACT Act was enforced in 2019, makes cruelty and torture against animals a federal crime in the United States. 

The PACT Act is a significant step towards protecting the rights of animals from cruelty and torture within the United States. 

The Lacey Act 

This act was enacted in 1900 that illegalized the practice of wildlife trafficking. 

This is the first-ever federal law that was enacted for animal welfare and protection. This law was specifically implemented for the prohibition of the trade of wildlife and plants in an illegal manner. 

It also restricts the falsification of papers for the sale and shipment of wildlife. 

State And Local Animal Welfare Laws

Most of the laws regarding animal welfare are enacted within the level of state jurisdictions. 

There are a variety of state and local laws that are in existence for the purpose of protecting animals. 

Additionally, the state laws that are enacted for the purpose of animal welfare are primarily focused on “companion animals”. Even though there are a variety of laws that are concerned with the protection of state wildlife. 

However, farmed animals and lab-used animals are generally exempt from state animal welfare laws, and in some cases, wildlife is also included. 

Subsequently, all 50 states in the United States have the presence of felony animal cruelty laws. Additionally, each state has different notions regarding defining the factors that constitute cruelty and the penalties that are set against each prohibited act. 

Animal Welfare For Companion and Farm Animals

Companion animals are generally recognized as animals that are considered as companions. 

Due to this, it includes dogs and cats primarily. But birds, horses, and other animals are also on the list. 

Additionally, if any individual is determined to act cruelly or torture any farm animals or companion animals, they shall be penalized for their actions. 

Some of the state and local laws and regulations that are associated with companion and farm animals are as follows: 

  • Laws regulate the way a stray will be sheltered before they are adopted for euthanization. 
  • Pets are also required to be vaccinated on a regular basis for the purpose of preventing rabies. 
  • State laws also have regulations regarding the commercial breeding of companion animals. 
  • “Hot car laws” prohibit including animals within a vehicle left out in the sun for a long period of time. 
  • Anti-tethering laws also regulate the conditions for putting an animal on lease for a certain time period. Additionally, it also prohibits tying an animal outside in extreme weather conditions. 
  • California is one of the first states in the US that has laws prohibiting the sale of companion animals from commercial breeders in pet shops. Due to this, pet shops will only be allowed to sell animals belonging to shelter and rescue groups. 
  • Maryland is the second state to have similar laws regarding the sale of companion animals within pet shops. 

Final Thoughts

Animals feel the same pain and torture that are felt by human beings. Due to this, like human rights protect humans from illegal actions, animals also have the same rights. 

So, it can be stated that federal and state-local laws are necessary for effective animal welfare within the United States. 

Strengthening these laws will enable effective protection of all animals within the United States.

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nilanjana basu
nilanjana basu

Nilanjana is a lawyer with a flair for writing. She has a certification in American Laws from Penn Law (Pennsylvania University). Along with this, she has been known to write legal articles that allow the audience to know about American laws and regulations at ease.


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