Increased penalties for repeat animal abusers, mandatory reporting requirements of animal cruelty by veterinarians, and felony penalties for animal abuse and neglect have helped make Illinois the top state in the nation for laws that protect animals. For a fourth consecutive year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Illinois number one nationwide in enacting legislation to protect the safety of animals.
In its annual report, the Animal Legal Defense Fund examines policies from the fifty states and six U.S. territories and determines which states have addressed animal safety issues such as penalties for abuse, mental health evaluation requirements, and animal fighting laws.
With reports linking the abuse of animals to domestic violence, effective legislation to reduce and prosecute those responsible for animal abuse is vital. A recent Chicago Police Department report, for instance, found roughly 30% of those arrested for dog fighting and animal abuse had a previous domestic violence charge already on their record.
In addition, numerous studies have highlighted the delay many women face in leaving abusive relationships due to their concern over the safety of left animals. Illinois legislation that mandates counseling and anger management courses for certain animal abusers is a key example of legislation meant to reduce the threat to animals while also reducing potential cases of domestic violence.
Recently, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced legislation to protect exotic animals in response to the highly publicized released of 50 animals in Ohio, all of which had to be put down by authorities. Steans legislation would require the registration of certain animals with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as well as establish certain requirements for exotic animal owners to prevent abuse and to protect nearby residents.