The History of Human-Animal Interaction

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Chapter 1
The History of Human-Animal Interaction

At the heart of the animal rights debate is the issue of how humans and animals should interact with each other. Are animals a natural resource for humans to use as they choose? Or are animals free beings with the right to live their lives without human interference? Is there an acceptable compromise somewhere in between? People answer these questions differently depending on their cultural practices, religious and ethical beliefs, and everyday experiences with animals. To understand how the debate has evolved over the centuries, it is necessary to examine history and see how the human-animal relationship developed and changed over time.


Evolutionary science holds that humans are animals that have changed and adapted over hundreds of thousands of years to take on their current form. Biologists classify the human animal as a member of the order Primate, along with chimpanzees and gorillas. Some scientists believe that humans and other primates shared a common ancestor millions of years ago and that at some point human animals split off to form their own evolutionary path. Skeletons found throughout parts of Africa show both human and nonhuman characteristics.

Those who believe in the evolution theory think that human primates left the treetops and began walking upright, using their hands to make tools and increase their survivability. Most nonhuman primates basically had a vegetarian diet, but human primates began capturing small animals and scavenging for meat from carcasses left behind by predators such as lions. About two million years ago human primates began using stone tools and weapons. This was the beginning of the Stone Age. The use of stone-tipped spears allowed humans to hunt large game, such as wooly mammoths.


In 1995 archaeologists found three wooden spears in a cave near Helmstedt, Germany. The spears were estimated to be about 400,000 years old. Humans at that time survived by hunting and fishing and by foraging for edible vegetation, nuts, and seeds; hence, they are called hunter-gatherers. Most lived as nomads, traveling in small groups from place to place. Once they had exhausted all the animals and plants in an area, they would move to a new location.

The earliest known cave drawings date back thirty thousand years and are located in France. In "Science Shows Cave Art Developed Early" (October 3, 2001,, the British Broadcasting Corporation reports that scientists have analyzed hundreds of prehistoric drawings in the Chauvet Caves of southern France and find them to be between 29,700 and 32,400 years old, making them the oldest known art in the world. Many cave drawings depict rhinoceroses, lions, buffalo, mammoths, and horses. Figure 1.1 shows a cave painting of a horse.

The vast majority of prehistoric cave drawings depict animals, not people. Some scientists believe that humans were in awe of the wild and fierce animals that they hunted. The hunters may have believed that they could exert some kind of magical power over animals by drawing pictures of them. Even though little is known for certain about the religious beliefs of the time, it is thought that prehistoric humans believed in a hidden world inhabited by the spirits of their dead ancestors, animals, and birds. Some spirits were considered good and others bad. People may have offered sacrifices of animals or other food to keep the spirits happy.

A belief system called animism has been traced back to the Paleolithic Age (the earliest period of the Stone Age). Animism is the belief that every object, living or not, contains a soul. Thus, animals, trees, and even rocks had spiritual meaning to prehistoric peoples. Anthropologists theorize that humans may have believed that they could capture the spirits (and thus the fierceness, strength, and speed) of wild animals by eating their flesh. Likewise, some wild animals may have been worshipped as gods by early humans.

Changing Climate

Around 15,00013,000 BC the massive glaciers that had covered much of the northern hemisphere during the Great Ice Age began to subside. The habitats and food supplies for both humans and animals began to change. The hunter-gatherers had increasing difficulty finding the big game they had hunted before. Scientists believe that mammoths and many other large animals were driven to extinction around 10,000 BC because of climate changes, over-hunting by humans, or both. Humans turned to hunting smaller animals and began gathering and cultivating plants in centralized locations. This major shift from nomadic life to settled existence had a tremendous effect on the human-animal relationship.


Between 13,000 and 2,500 BC humans domesticated dogs, cats, cattle, goats, horses, and sheep from their wild counterparts. Although the terms taming and domestication are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Individual wild animals can be tamed to behave in a docile manner around humans. By contrast, domestication is a process that takes place with an entire animal species over many generations.

Characteristics of Domesticated Animals

Domesticated animals are not just tamer than their wild ancestors; they are different genetically. Over the ages, desirable qualities, such as size and disposition, were engrained by breeding only those animals that displayed them. This explains some of the physical differences between wild and domesticated animals. For example, most domesticated species are smaller and fatter and have smaller teeth and brains than their wild ancestors. (See Figure 1.2.)

Domestication of Dogs and Cats

The dog is thought to have been the first animal to be domesticated by humans, sometime around 13,00010,000 BC, from its wolflike ancestor Canis lupus. Scientists believe that humans either adopted cubs and raised them or just began to accept into their groups some of the less fierce wolves that hung around their camps scrounging for leftovers. In either event, humans soon found dogs to be a welcome addition. The arrangement benefited both sides, as domesticated wolves helped humans with hunting and guarding duties and shared the food that was obtained.

Although cat remains have been found in settlements that date back to 8,000 BC, it is not clear if these were domesticated cats or small wild cats that were tolerated by or even encouraged to live near the people living there. Cat bones mixed with human and rat bones found on the island of Cyprus date back to around 5,000 BC. Because wild cats are not native to the island, cats must have been transported there by humans on purpose, probably to control the rat population.

The ancient Egyptians are usually credited with domesticating wild cats (Felis silvestris libyca, originating in Africa and southwestern Asia) around 4,000 BC. The Egyptians most likely raised cats from small kittens to protect their grain stores from rats and mice. Cat domestication is strongly associated with the establishment of permanent settlements and the growing and storage of grains. Cats became important to agricultural societies, just as dogs had been important to hunting cultures.

Domestication of Livestock

The domestication of livestockchiefly pigs, cows, sheep, horses, and goatsis thought to have occurred between 9,000 and 5,000 BC as agriculture became more of a factor in human societies scattered across Asia and Europe.

History shows that the most suitable animals for domestication (and use by humans) are those that naturally live in groups with a hierarchical social structure. This allows humans to assume a dominant role in the hierarchy and exert control over the animals' behavior. Of the animals that have been domesticated, only cats and ferrets are considered to exhibit solitary lifestyles rather than herd/group behavior. In fact, scientists are not convinced that all species of cats and ferrets are completely domesticated in the classic sense.

The ability to keep and control groups of meat-supplying animals allowed humans to give up their previously nomadic lives and produce excess food. This freed people to build cities and roads, invent new things, and cultivate the arts.


The peoples of most ancient civilizations were polytheistic (meaning that they believed in more than one god). Many ancient peoples worshipped animals as gods, used animals to represent their gods, or thought that their gods could assume animal form when they wished. At various times, ancient Egyptians held different animals as sacred and as representations of their gods and goddesses. Some animals may have been worshipped as deities, but others were most likely used to present deities in a recognizable form.

Some early civilizations also worshipped heavenly bodies, such as the sun and moon. These cultures believed that the stars and planets had magical influences over earthly events. They tracked the positions and aspects of the heavenly bodies closely and believed that such information could be used to foresee the future. Astrology and the zodiac evolved from these beliefs and were adopted by people in many different cultures, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Hindus, and early Chinese. (See Table 1.1.) Most ancient zodiacs used animals to represent some or all the constellations. In fact, the word zodiac comes from the Greek term zodion kuklos, meaning "circle of little animals."

Although ancient Indians had varied spiritual beliefs, many of these beliefs were blended together into the practice of Hinduism around 3,000 BC. In general, Hindus believe that animals and people experience rebirths after they die. In other words, a human can be reincarnated as an animal, or vice versa. This means that all life forms are to be respected. Because Hindus consider virtually everything to be divine, they worship many animal gods and believe that their gods can take many forms, including human-animal forms.

Buddhism was founded during the sixth century by Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian philosopher who came to be called Buddha. Buddha believed that animals were important spiritually and were evolving toward a higher consciousness, just as humans were. Therefore, Buddhists consider it wrong to cause any harm to an animal or any other living being.

Jainism also originated in India and is similar in many respects to Buddhism, although it is perhaps much older. The Jains are so adamantly opposed to killing any life form that they allow themselves to be bitten by gnats and mosquitoes rather than swatting them. They often carry brooms so they can brush worms out of their path to avoid stepping on them. The Jains strongly condemn the eating of any meat. They became well known in later centuries for their animal hospitals.

Chinese zodiac
Source: Created by Kim Masters Evans for Thomson Gale

Archaeological evidence indicates that farming and animal husbandry were practiced in ancient China and that horse-drawn chariots were in use. (Animal husbandry is defined by the eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "a branch of agriculture concerned with the production and care of domestic animals.") A Chinese emperor of the first century BC established the Garden of Intelligence, one of the largest zoos in the world. Confucianism is based on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who became famous for his sayings about how to live a happy and responsible life. In general, Confucius encouraged respect for animals, but not reverence. In other words, animals were not to be treated as deities. Killing animals for food was allowable, but killing them for sport was not.

Taoism is a spiritual philosophy that developed in China during the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Taoists believe that there is a power that envelops and flows through all living and nonliving things and that all life should be respected.

Hebrew Tribes and Judaism

The origins of Judaism lie with Hebrew tribes that populated the Mesopotamian region of the Middle East. Although the Hebrews followed various worship practices, including animism, they eventually developed a central religion known as Judaism. The followers of Judaism came to be called Jews. Judaism was unique among the many religions of the time because it is monotheistic. The Jews worship only one god instead of many gods. The Hebrew Biblewhich is also called the Old Testament and comprises part of what later became the sacred text of Christianitysays that humans were created in the image of God. Therefore, the Hebrew God is anthropomorphic, or humanlike.

According to the first book (Genesis) of the Hebrew Bible, God created the earth and populated it with all kinds of creatures. God granted humans "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." This idea of dominion was to have a profound effect on Western civilization for centuries to come. However, the Old Testament also states that "the righteous person regards the life of his animals."

Arabic Cultures and Islam

The first kingdom appeared in the Arabian desert around 1,000 BC. Before that time the region was inhabited by scattered families and clans, many of whom were nomadic, called Bedouins, who raised camels. The Bedouins were animists who believed that spirits lived within all natural things. They also worshipped their ancestors and heavenly bodies.

Over the next few centuries society became more centralized, and the worship of many gods became common in temples and cults throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Islam was founded by the prophet Muhammad (570632 AD), who believed in only one god. The Koran is the Islamic sacred text and includes many references to animals, particularly camels. Falcons, pigeons, cats, and horses were also considered important in early Islamic cultures. Legend has it that Muhammad was so fond of cats that he once cut a hole in his robe to keep from disturbing a cat that had fallen asleep on his sleeve. Muhammad also spoke highly of horses and considered their breeding to be an honorable task. The Arabs bred fine and fast horses that were used in warfare, transportation, and sporting events.

Although the Koran does not specifically mention animal souls, it does teach respect for all living creatures.

Classical Greece

Even though Greece was associated with a variety of cultures, the classical Greek period from 500 to 323 BC was the most influential for future ideas about animals. The classical Greeks did not have one central philosophy but followed the teachings of various schools established by wise men and philosophers. Some of the most famous were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

In general, animals were widely used for food, clothing, and work in Greek society. These uses were not questioned on moral or philosophical grounds because the people believed that everything in nature had a purpose. In other words, plants existed for animals and both plants and animals existed for the welfare and enjoyment of humans. However, the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras and his followers did not eat meat because they believed that animals had souls. Many other Greeks, including Plato, recommended a vegetarian diet for ethical or practical reasons. Plato believed that a vegetarian diet made good economic sense because it required less land than animal husbandry to produce food.

Plato's student Aristotle is considered the father of zoology in Western history. He wrote extensively about animal anatomy, behavior, and reproduction in History of Animals and On the Parts of Animals. Aristotle believed that there was a natural hierarchy in which humans, animals, plants, and inanimate objects were arranged by their level of perfection. This arrangement came to be called the scala naturae or "ladder of nature." Later philosophers called it "The Great Chain of Being."

The top rungs of Aristotle's ladder were occupied by humans, because Aristotle believed that they alone had rational souls that were capable of belief, reason, and thought. Below the humans were animals; Aristotle believed that animals had limited souls that allowed them to feel, but not to reason. Plants had the lowest forms of souls and ranked the lowest on the ladder. Among humans, Aristotle believed that there was a natural hierarchy, with free men ranked above slaves, women, and children. Aristotle's ideas about the rank of humans and animals in society would influence thinking in Western cultures for centuries.


Christianity began as a sect of Judaism during the first century AD. Its followers believe that God had come among them in the form of a human named Jesus Christ. They set down their beliefs in scriptures that came to be known as the New Testament of the Bible.

Christ's followers considered Jesus's death to be a human sacrifice, similar to the animal sacrifices that were common in Jewish religious practice. This symbolism played an important role in the new religion. The New Testament mentions many animals, but mostly in the context of everyday life and as food sources. Christians did maintain the belief from the Hebrew Bible that humans had dominion over animals. The importance of the human soul was central to Christian theology. Many Christian philosophers of later centuries, such as Saint Augustine, argued that only humans (not animals) had rational minds and souls.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire actually began as a single city, the city of Rome, which became a republic in 510 BC. The Romans had a warrior mentality and built their empire by conquering other peoples and cultures. The rulers of the Roman Empire delighted in brutal competitions and sports and invented many "games" to entertain their citizens. The Coliseum of Rome was a massive arena that featured events in which wild animals fought to the death with each other or with humans. Ancient texts describe the deaths of bulls, lions, tigers, elephants, and other animals. Often, the animals were chained together or tormented with burning irons and darts to make the fighting fiercer.

Historical evidence shows that the Romans were fond of horses. Their economy, troops, and postal service were dependent on the work done by horses. The Romans also practiced animal husbandry with cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens and kept cats and dogs as pets or working animals. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in AD 325. This put an end to the killing of humans in the Coliseum, because the human soul is sacred to Christianity. There is no evidence that animal games ceased, however, until the empire became too poor to acquire exotic and wild animals for them.


In general, Europe's medieval period, also called the Middle Ages, is considered the era from the fall of the Roman Empire in the late fifth century through the sixteenth century. The early centuries of the period are called the Dark Ages, because few known scientific and cultural achievements were made by Western societies during this time. Once the Roman emperors were gone, the authorities of the Christian church began to hold great power over the peoples of Europe.

Saint Francis of Assisi is arguably the most famous animal lover of the medieval period in Europe. The Franciscan friar was said to preach to birds and animals and release captured animals from traps. There are many legends about the saint, the most famous being that he once convinced a wolf to stop terrorizing a town and eating the livestock. Saint Francis was said to have "the gift of sympathy" for animals and in modern Catholicism is the patron saint of animals and ecology.

One of the most influential philosophers of the Middle Ages was Saint Thomas Aquinas. In 1264 he published Of God and His Creatures, in which he included a section titled "That the Souls of Dumb Animals Are Not Immortal." Aquinas argued that animals can neither understand nor reason and that their actions are driven entirely by natural instincts rather than by "art" or self-consciousness. Because animals can comprehend only the present and not the future, Aquinas believed that their souls are not immortal like human souls.


During the medieval period the Christian church worked to stamp out paganism, cults, animal worship, and all other non-Christian beliefs. Many Crusades, or holy wars, were launched between 1095 and 1291 to try to conquer the Muslims, who had taken over Jerusalem. Many people (and horses) on both sides were killed in these wars.

Domestic crusades were also launched against groups and individuals throughout Europe who were considered dangerous to the church or its teachings. Medieval people became obsessed with the devil and believed that he and his servants assumed human and animal forms. Although different animals were suspected of being agents of the devil at different times and places, the cat was by far the most closely associated with evil. During the Middle Ages roughly a million cats were burned at the stake, along with their owners, on suspicion of being witches. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, Europe's cat population had been severely depleted. Only semiwild cats survived in many areas.

In 1347 the bubonic plague swept across Europe. Called the Black Death, it killed twenty-five million people (nearly a third of Europe's population) in only three years. The disease was spread to humans by fleas on infected rodents. Centuries of cat slaughter had allowed the rodent population to surge out of control. The persecution of cats during the Middle Ages seems to have been unique to Europe. In Asia and the Middle East during the same period, cats retained their prestige as protectors of grains and other food supplies.


The centuries immediately following the Middle Ages are called the Age of Enlightenment because waves of intellectual and scientific advancement swept across Europe. Many superstitions and customs disappeared as societies became more urban and less rural. Church authorities began to lose much of their power over people's lives. Medical researchers gained permission to perform autopsies (mostly on executed prisoners) to learn about human anatomy. Autopsies had been forbidden by the church for centuries, and little medical progress had been made in the field of anatomy since the second century, when the Roman doctor Galen practiced dissection on gladiators and animals. Animal experimentation was to become a major research tool of modern medicine.

In 1543 the Belgian doctor Andreas Vesalius published "Some Observations on the Dissection of Living Animals" in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. Vesalius hoped to convince other doctors that the study of anatomy was essential to improving medical care. He advocated cutting open living animals to teach students about blood circulation.

During the 1600s the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes published some influential essays in which he argued that animals could not think at all. Descartes said that only humans had eternal souls; thus, only humans could reason. He described the human gift of language as proof that humans were philosophically different from animals. Descartes was fascinated with the field of mechanics and extended its ideas to nonhuman animals. He wrote that animals were mechanical things like clocks and therefore could not feel pain. This helped make it socially acceptable to cut open animals while they were still alive for medical and scientific purposes. The process became known as vivisection and was widespread in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Literature from this time describes live dogs being nailed to tables in classrooms and dissected to learn about their anatomy. Writers dismissed the cries of the dogs as being similar to the screeching sounds that a piece of machinery makes when it is forcibly taken apart.


As the Middle Ages drew to a close, sports in which animals were pitted against each other became popular in England. These "blood sports" included bull- and bear-baiting with dogs, cockfighting, and dog fighting.

Baiting began as more of a practical matter than a sport. Medieval people believed that an animal that was whipped immediately before slaughter would provide more tender meat. Whippings administered by butchers eventually evolved into events where teams of dogs were allowed to set upon bulls and bite and tear at their flesh. Such baitings soon became popular entertainment and were expanded to include other animals, such as bears. Baiting events were generally held in a ring or arena or in a field near a town's shops.

Most church authorities considered animal blood sports to be harmless pastimes, but this was not true of the Puritans. The Puritans were a Christian group that wanted to change the Church of England. In 1583 Puritan social reformer Philip Stubbes published The Anatomie of Abuses in which he asked, "What Christian heart can take pleasure to see one poor beast rend, tear, and kill another?" The Puritans took power over the British Parliament in the mid-1600s and outlawed baiting and other blood sports for a short time. When the Puritans were thrown out of power, blood sports returned and became even more popular.


During the seventeenth century many Puritans fled England for the New WorldNorth America. The Puritans brought their unique perspective on animals with them. In 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted a Body of Liberties that set out the fundamental rights of the colonists. Included in these rights was Article 92, which stated, "No man shall exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any Bruite creature which are usuallie kept for man's use." This is generally considered the first modern law against animal cruelty; however, it did not have a major effect on American laws or customs regarding animals.

Livestock was vitally important to the new colonies because of its economic value. Thus, laws were passed making it a capital crime to kill a farm animal without the owner's permission.


Meanwhile, in Europe new social and philosophical movements were to have far-reaching effects on the welfare of animals. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries several notable philosophers and writers spoke out against the mistreatment of animals. John Locke of England wrote that children should be taught from an early age that torturing and killing any living thing was despicable. In 1713 the poet Alexander Pope wrote the article "Against Barbarity to Animals" for London's Guardian newspaper.

David Hume of Scotland advocated "gentle usage" of animals for the sake of humanity. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that cruelty to animals easily escalated to cruelty to humans and should therefore be stopped. Stopping animal cruelty for the sake of humans became a rather popular idea and was embraced more easily than the idea of preventing cruelty just for animals' sake.

In 1751 the British artist William Hogarth released a series of etchings and engravings called The Four Stages of Cruelty. The graphic images depicted the life of a fictional boy named Tom Nero who graduates from harming animals as a child to harming people as an adult. In the first scene the boy, in a white cap, tortures a dog with an arrow. Although one boy tries to stop him, the boys are surrounded by other children also torturing animals. In the second scene Tom Nero is shown as a young man beating a horse on the street, while other acts of animal cruelty take place around him. The third scene shows fully grown Tom Nero immediately after he has murdered his girlfriend. In the fourth scene Tom Nero has been hanged for his crime, and his body is being dissected at a medical school.

Hogarth's intention was to illustrate some of the horrors of animal cruelty, but the connection between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans was what captured people's attention. Even those who did not care about animal issues could see the dangers to civilized society of ignoring animal cruelty.

In 1764 the "mechanical animal" theory advocated by Descartes during the previous century was attacked by the French philosopher François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire in Dictionnaire Philosophique Portatif. Voltaire argued that the scientists who dissected live animals found "organs of feeling" within them similar to those of humans, thus proving that animals could indeed feel pain.

In 1776 the Anglican clergyman Humphrey Primatt published A Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals. Primatt wrote, "Pain is pain, whether it is inflicted on man or on beast." He equated cruelty to animals with sin and even atheism, and complained that legal authorities were doing little to stop it. Primatt argued that eliminating barbaric practices against animals might cut down on the number of "shocking murders" that were occurring.

One of the most poignant pleas for animals was made by the British philosopher and political scientist Jeremy Bentham. In 1789 he published An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, in which he advocated making cruelty to animals punishable by law. Bentham wrote, "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" Toward the end of the eighteenth century a few court cases were successfully tried against people who had abused animals, but only because the animals did not belong to the guilty parties.


Modern legal protections for animals date back to nineteenth-century England. In 1822 Richard Martin, a member of the Parliament, sponsored a bill prohibiting cruelty to cattle, horses, and sheep. It became the first anticruelty law of its kind.

"Humanity Martin," as he came to be called, soon learned that having a law in effect and getting it enforced were two different things. The authorities were not interested in spending time gathering evidence and prosecuting animal abuse cases. Martin conducted his own investigations and managed to get a conviction and fine levied against a man for beating horses. He was helped in his efforts by a group of people led by the Reverend Arthur Broome. In 1824 this group became the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Although people had tried to form such societies before, most notably in 1808 in Liverpool, this was the first time that a group fighting against animal abuse had legal backup for its endeavors. The SPCA managed to win 149 convictions against abusers during its first year of operation.

In 1835 Martin's original act was expanded to protect dogs and bulls. In addition, cockfighting and the practice of baiting were outlawed. In 1840 the SPCA was recognized by Queen Victoria and became the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The RSPCA appointed inspectors to patrol the markets and slaughterhouses of London and other large cities looking for abuses. The group continued to push for new and tougher legislation against animal cruelty, and the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in 1849 (and amended in 1854). This act made many common abuses against animals illegal, including cropping (shortening by cutting) a dog's ears. It also spelled out rules for the proper treatment of animals during their impoundment and transport to slaughter. The act was amended again in 1876 to restrict the use of animals in research.

Many people involved in furthering animal welfare in England were also involved in other humanitarian movements of the time, including child welfare and anti-slavery causes. They believed that these issues were all related by common problems: abuse of power and the domination of the strong over the weak using cruel measures. There was also a growing moral belief that permitting cruelty to animals would lead to violence against humans and weaken society in general. It was also during the mid-1800s that the keeping of pets became popular among the middle classes.


Early U.S. law was patterned after British common law, which viewed animals as pieces of property. However, the reform movements that swept England during the nineteenth century also reached the United States. The Animal Legal and Historical Center (2007, notes that in 1828 the state of New York passed the first law against animal cruelty, which read: "Every person who shall maliciously kill, maim or wound any horse, ox or other cattle, or any sheep, belonging to another, or shall maliciously and cruelly beat or torture any such animal, whether belonging to himself or another, shall, upon conviction, be adjudged guilty of a misdemeanor."

Within the next decade similar laws were passed in states throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Some state laws covered only livestock, whereas others included all domestic animals. Some laws applied only if the animal belonged to someone other than the abuser.

In 1866 Henry Burgh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Fashioned after the RSPCA, the ASPCA received permission from the New York Legislature to enforce anticruelty laws in the state. This meant that ASPCA officers could arrest and seek convictions of animal abusers. Burgh was elected the first ASPCA president and held that post for twenty-two years. Similar societies soon formed in other major cities, including Philadelphia and Boston.

Vivisection, practiced at Europe's medical schools for some time, had also been incorporated into U.S. medical training. In 1871 Harvard University established one of the first vivisection laboratories in the country. The Massachusetts SPCA launched an aggressive media campaign to educate the public about the cruelties of vivisection and turn public support against the university. Antivivisection societies were also started in Illinois and New England, but their attempts to outlaw the practice failed.

The first federal law in the United States dealing with animal cruelty was the Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1873. This law required that livestock being transported across state lines be rested and watered at least once every twenty-eight hours during the journey.


By the early twentieth century American society was becoming increasingly urban and industrial. Working animals, such as horses, were gradually replaced with machinery on farms and city streets. The growing middle class had more time and money for leisure activities, many of which involved animalshunting, fishing, keeping pets, and visiting wildlife refuges, circuses, zoos, and animal parks. Horseracing and greyhound racing both became popular sports in the 1930s as many states legalized this type of gambling.

In 1938 the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act was passed. This legislation required animal testing of certain chemicals and drugs to ensure their safety for human use. It was to have a profound effect on the human-animal relationship and later debates on the topic of animal rights. Following World War II (193945), the use of animals in medical and scientific research exploded. The demand for dogs and cats in the laboratory led to animal procurement laws in many states, allowing scientists to obtain test subjects from dog pounds and animal shelters.

By this time, the country's animal protection organizations had largely turned their attention from farm animals to pets. Some people within these groups were deeply opposed to the use of animals in research, whereas others saw it as a regrettable necessity. Differences in opinion led to splintering and the formation of new organizations. The Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were both founded in the early 1950s. Table 1.2 lists other organizations devoted to animal welfare that were founded between 1951 and 1991.

Animal protection organizations founded, selected years 195191
Source: Adapted from Deborah J. Salem and Andrew N. Rowan, "Milestones in Postwar Animal Protection," in The State of the Animals: 2001, Humane Society of the United States, 2001
Organizations founded
1951Animal Welfare Institute
1954Humane Society of the U.S.
1955Society for Animal Protective Legislation
1957Friends of Animals
1959Catholic Society for Animal Welfare (now ISAR)
Beauty Without Cruelty
1967Fund for Animals
United Action for Animals
1968Animal Protection Institute
Canadian Council on Animal Care
1969International Fund for Animal Welfare
1973International Primate Protection League (IPPL)
1974North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS)
1976Animal Rights International (ARI)
Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting (CASH)
1977Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Scientists Center for Animal Welfare
American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research
1978Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Medical Research Modernization Committee
1979Committee to End Animal Suffering in Experiments (CEASE)
1980People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PsyETA)
Student Action Corps for Animals (SACA)
1981Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)
Trans-Species Unlimited (TSU)
Mobilization for Animals (MfA)
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)
1981Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT)
Primarily Primates Sanctuary
1982Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG)
National Alliance for Animal Legislation (NAA)
Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR)
1983In Defense of Animals (IDA)
1984Humane Farming Association (HFA)
Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
1985Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
Last Chance for Animals (LCA)
Culture and Animals Foundation (CAF)
Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy
1986Farm Sanctuary
Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC)
1988Doris Day Animal League (DDAL)
1990United Poultry Concerns
1991Ark Trust

Animal protection groups began to develop separate identities and missions. Some retained a local focus, whereas others focused on national issues. They gained an ally in Senator Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat from Minnesota, who championed animal causes as well as civil rights and other social movements. Humphrey was instrumental in the passage of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958. The law required the use of humane slaughter methods at slaughterhouses subject to federal inspection. It was the first piece of federal animal protection legislation in eighty-five years.

The next year Congress passed the Wild Horses Act to outlaw the use of motorized vehicles and the poisoning of watering holes "for the purpose of trapping, killing, wounding, or maiming" wild horses on federal lands.

In the 1960s another animal issue, this time dog-related, achieved national prominence because of the efforts of a handful of people. Pepper was a family pet that disappeared from her backyard in Pennsylvania in 1965 and wound up dead in a New York City laboratory. Pepper's family diligently tracked down what had happened to her and helped expose a network of shady animal dealers and pet thieves selling animals by the pound to research laboratories. The public demanded action. In 1966 Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, which required the licensing of animal dealers and the regulation of laboratory animals. It is still the primary federal law that covers the welfare of animals used in research and public exhibitions and that regulates aspects of the handling, transport, care, and commerce related to covered animals. The major provisions of the act and its four amendments are shown in Table 1.3.

Several other federal laws were passed in the 1960s and 1970s designed to protect wild animals, including eagles, seals, and endangered species. Some animal protection issues were intertwined with causes devoted to conservation, ecology, and the environment. "Save the Whales" became a popular slogan.

Animal Rights Becomes an Issue

In 1975 a new twist developed in an old movement. The Australian philosopher Peter Singer published the book Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, which calls for a fundamental change in the human-animal relationship. Singer argues that animals are victimized by humans on a massive scale because of a social evil called speciesism, a term he uses for the widespread belief that the human species is superior to all others. Singer equates humans' mistreatment of animals throughout history with racism and sexism and blamed speciesism for the systematic abuse of animals in agriculture, research, and other human activities. The year after Singer's book was published, Animal Rights International was founded by social reformer Henry Spira.

Some people working for animal causes embraced the idea that animals are not resources to be protected by benevolent humans but individual beings with their own interests and rights. This meant that humans could not use animals for any purpose (food, clothing, sport, entertainment, and so on) because it was morally and ethically wrong to do so. This opened a new agenda in the animal welfare movement that went beyond calls for kind treatment and humane methods of slaughter. Adherence to the most radical animal rights theory meant that eating meat and killing vermin were wrong. So were zoos and circuses, hunting and fishing, and experimenting on animals to find cures for human diseases, no matter how humanely any of these activities were carried out.


The Animal Welfare Act and its amendments

Laboratory Animal Welfare Act Public Law 89-544 (August 24, 1966)

Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate transport, sale, and handling of dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits intended to be used in research or "for other purposes."

Requires licensing and inspection of dog and cat dealers and humane handling at auction sales.

Animal Welfare Act of 1970 Public Law 91-579 (December 24, 1970)

Expands the list of animals covered by the act.

Incorporates exhibitors into the act and defines research facilities.

Exempts retail pet stores, state and county fairs, rodeos, purebred dog and cat shows, and agricultural exhibition.

Directs development of regulations regarding recordkeeping and humane care and treatment of animals in or during commerce, exhibition, experimentation, and transport.

Establishes inspections, and appropriate anesthetics, analgesics, and tranquilizers. Includes regulations on dog and cat commerce.

Animal Welfare Act Amendments of 1976 Public Law 94-279 (April 22, 1976)

Primarily refines previous regulations on animal transport and commerce.

Licenses, method of payment, and penalties for violations are discussed.

Introduces and defines "animal fighting ventures."

Exempts animals used in hunting waterfowl, foxes, etc.

Makes it illegal to exhibit or transport via interstate or foreign commerce animals used in fighting ventures such as dogs or roosters.

Food Security Act of 1985, Subtitle F-Animal Welfare also called "The Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act" Public Law 99-198 (December 23, 1985)

Clarifies and specifies "humane care" specifics such as sanitation, housing, and ventilation.

Directs development of regulations to provide exercise for dogs and an adequate physical environment to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates.

Specifies that pain and distress must be minimized in experimental procedures and that alternatives to such procedures be considered by the principal investigator.

Defines practices that are considered to be painful.

Stipulates that no animal can be used in more than one major operative experiment with recovery (exceptions are listed).

Establishes the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

Forms an information service at the National Agricultural Library to assist those regulated by the act.

Explains the penalties for release of trade secrets by regulators and the regulated community.

Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, Section 2503-Protection of Pets Public Law 101-624 (November 28, 1990)

Establishes a holding period for dogs and cats at shelters and other holding facilities before sale to dealers.

Requires dealers to provide written certification regarding each animal's background to the recipient.

source: Adapted from "Animal Welfare Act and Regulations," in Animal Care: Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Agricultural Library, Animal Welfare Information Center, 2006, (accessed January 8, 2007)

This philosophical leap was too much for many people, and the idea that animals had rights like humans was not generally embraced. The public supported anticruelty laws and animal protection measures (within reason) but did not go so far as to say that animals have a moral standing in society that makes it inherently wrong to eat or use them. Opponents of animal rights argued that to do so would go against centuries of tradition and beliefs, disrupt many accepted systems for feeding and entertaining people, have crippling economic consequences, hurt millions of people who earned their living through animals, and impede scientific progress. Because of such arguments, most Americans of the 1970s rejected the idea of animal rights. So did most of the traditional animal protection organizations, though they continued their work to educate and reform.

However, the idea did not go away. More books examining this issue were published, and new organizations formed, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 1980. Many others followed. These animal rights groups were much bolder than traditional animal welfare organizations. They held protest marches and publicly condemned companies and research institutions using animals for various purposes. The radical group Animal Liberation Front raided laboratories and farms to "free" animals and destroy property. The first such raid happened in 1979 at the New York University Medical Center.

Some animal rights groups worked through the legal system to achieve change, filing lawsuits and working with prosecutors to strengthen animal protection laws. The more traditional animal protection groups supported these efforts. Legal reform was one area in which the entire animal movement found some common ground. The traditional groups increased their political power during the 1980s through swelling membership rolls, and animal issues gained momentum in society, particularly among pet owners.


As illustrated in Hogarth's artwork, there has long been a belief that cruelty toward animals and cruelty toward humans are related. In more recent times this belief has been reinforced by scientific and anecdotal evidence. Many notorious serial killers and mass murderersincluding Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam"), and Albert de Salvo ("the Boston Strangler")are known to have tortured and killed animals. Many of the children who have carried out school shootings since the 1990s (notably Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed twelve fellow students, one teacher, and themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999) had a history of cruelty to animals before they began committing violent acts against humans.

The fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994) includes cruelty to animals in the broad category of "conduct disorder." According to Frank R. Ascione, Claudia V. Webber, and David S. Wood in "The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey for Shelters of Women Who Are Battered" (Society and Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, 1997), conduct disorder is "a pattern of antisocial behavior that can persist into adulthood." The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (July 2004, also lists cruelty to animals as a typical behavior exhibited in conduct disorder.

Many animal welfare activists, sociologists, psychologists, and law enforcement officials agree that a person who has abused animals will likely become involved in further antisocial and/or criminal behavior at some point. In "A Social Sentinel: Acts of Animal Cruelty Can Point to an Offender's Potential for Violence against Humans" (October 5, 2005,, Eleanor Shelburne notes that studies find that as many as 75% of incarcerated criminals in the United States have a history of torturing or killing animals. The National Crime Prevention Council reports in "Strategy: Screening Animal Cruelty Cases for Domestic Violence" (2005,, a U.S. study of battered women who had sought the help of shelters, that 54% reported that their abuser had also tortured or killed animals in the home, versus 3% of women surveyed overall.

Given these data, animal abuse is increasingly recognized as a serious crime in itself, with more states bringing felony charges against offenders. Additionally, successful programs have been created across the United States that join animal welfare organizations, local law enforcement, animal control officers, and child protective services so that all parties can be trained to look for signs of both animal abuse and domestic violence.


By the 1990s the major animal welfare organizations were starting to achieve sufficient financial support and political clout to successfully pursue their efforts for change in two main areas: the courts and the ballot box. As of the beginning of 2007 the HSUS Animal Protection Litigation Section ( employed ten full-time lawyers and was engaged in more than forty lawsuits pertaining to animal issues around the country. In many of the cases the HSUS was partnered with one or more other animal welfare or conservation organizations, such as the ASPCA or Defenders of Wildlife. Targets of the litigation included various corporate entities involved in animal-related businesses and government agencies in charge of implementing laws and regulations that pertain to animals.

Table 1.4 lists the major pieces of animal-related federal legislation that were passed or amended between 1958 and 2003. Table 1.5 highlights major accomplishments of the animal movement at the federal level from 1979 to 1983 and between 1999 and 2003. Both tables are from the HSUS report The State of the Animals III (December 31, 2005, The report notes that the animal movement rose "from political oblivion in the first half of the twentieth century to a position where lawmakers would listen if the context and the proposal were timely and supported by the societal and political mood."

Federal animal protection legislation passed or amended, selected years 19582003
YearFederal legislation passed/amended
Source: Andrew N. Rowan and Beth Rosen, "Table 1. Federal Legislative Summary, 19582003," in The State of the Animals III: 2005, Humane Society of the United States, December 31, 2005, (accessed November 28, 2006). Data from B. Unti and A.N. Rowan, "A Social History of Postwar Animal Protection," in The State of the Animals: 2001, Humane Society of the United States, 2001.
1958Humane Methods of Slaughter Act
1959Wild Horses Act
1962Bald and Golden Eagle Act
1966Endangered Species Act
Laboratory Animal Welfare Act
1970Animal Welfare Act (amendments to Laboratory Animal Welfare Act)
1971Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act
1972Marine Mammal Protection Act
1973Endangered Species Act amendments
1976Animal Welfare Act amendments
Horse Protection Act
Fur Seal Act
1978Humane Methods of Slaughter Act amendments
1985Animal Welfare Act amendments (focus on alternatives and pain and distress)
PHS Policy on animals in research revised
1990Animal Welfare Act amendments
1992Wild Bird Conservation Act
1993International Dolphin Conservation Act
Driftnet Fishery Conservation Act
NIH Revitalization [Reauthorization] Act mandates development of research methods using no animals
1995USDA ends face branding
1999Ban on the interstate shipment of "crush videos"
2000Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act
2002Dog and Cat Protection Act
Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) Authorization Act
Safe Air Travel for Animals Act
Ban on interstate transportation of birds and dogs for fighting purposes
2003Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act

One of the major issues at the federal level is funding for the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Figure 1.3 shows federal monies appropriated (assigned) to enforcement of the AWA between 1970 and 2005 as reported by the HSUS. More than $16 million was appropriated to the AWA in 2005. Animal advocates believe that this amount is far too small to adequately ensure that the AWA is properly enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA records shown in Table 1.6 list the number of AWA inspections conducted during fiscal year 2004the most recent data available. More than eleven thousand compliance inspections were completed at the eighty-three hundred facilities covered by the AWA during that year. In addition, just over two thousand non-compliance (prelicensing) inspections were also conducted.

Federal legislation benefiting the animal care and protection movement, selected years 19792003
*United States Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Act.
Source: Adapted from Andrew N. Rowan and Beth Rosen, "Table 3. Comparative Analysis of Federal Accomplishments," in The State of the Animals III: 2005, Humane Society of the United States, December 31, 2005, (accessed November 28, 2006)
Animal Welfare Act
  • Provision on marine mammal care care standards added
  • USDA AWA* enforcement budget boosted by ca. 50 percent
  • Interstate commerce in birds and dogs used in animal fighting prohibited
  • Banned dog and cat fur products
  • Banned "crush videos" (where small animals are tortured/crushed to death)
  • Obtained additional $6 million for enforcement of Humane Slaughter Act
  • Banned the use of downer cattle for human consumption
  • Obtained $703,000 for hoop barns for pig raising
  • Passed legislation authorizing the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM)
  • Passed legislation authorizing a national sanctuary system for retired laboratory chimpanzees
  • Banned commerce in big cats for the pet trade
  • Banned practice of cutting fins off sharks and discarding their bodies at sea while still alive
Companion animals
Cruelty issues
Farm animals
Animals in research
  • Passed Alaska Lands billdesignating more than 100 million acres in Alaska as parks or wildlife refuges
  • Added Marine Mammal Protection Act regulations
  • National Park Service published final regulations banning trapping on some lands
Animal Welfare Act inspections, by facility type and inspection category, fiscal year 2004
Total number of facilitiesNumber of inspections by category
aCarriers is a category representing commercial airlines.
bAttempted inspections could not be performed because facility personnel were not available.
Note: Compliance and prelicensing inspections are unannounced.
Source: "FY 2004 AWA Inspections," in Animal Care Reports: Annual Reports of Enforcement by Fiscal Year: 2004, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2004, (accessed November 28, 2006)
Inspections for compliance
Research facilities1,0791,693
Attempted inspectionsb976
Non-compliance Inspections
Prelicensing inspections2,003
    Total of inspections for compliance and non-compliance inspections13,886

In 2004 the HSUS launched a new arm called the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF). According to the HSLF (2006,, the organization "works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office." One of the goals of the HSLF is to convince voters at election time to support candidates it considers animal-friendly on the issues. It does this through targeted media campaigns and mass mailings to potential voters. The HSLF also compiles a Humane Scorecard for each session of Congress that grades every legislator on his or her voting and bill-sponsorship record as it relates to animal issues. Humane Scorecards for the 106th session (19992000) through the 109th session (200506) are available on the organization's Web site.

Many animal protection groups have actively pursued stricter state laws dealing with animal cruelty and neglect. According to the HSUS, only seven states had felony anticruelty laws at the end of the 1980s. As shown in Table 1.7, this number had grown to forty-four states as of April 2006. The six states lacking such statutes were Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, and Utah. However, states vary widely in how the felony classification is applied to crimes against animals. For example, some states consider a first offense or conviction for anticruelty to be a misdemeanor and subsequent offenses or convictions to be felonies. The species of the animal victims are also a factor in some state laws. Alabama law designates cruelty against dogs and cats as a felony, whereas other animals fall under the misdemeanor statute. The HSUS (2007, urges its members to push for felony state anticruelty laws that meet all the following criteria:

  • Apply to all species of animals
  • Apply to first offenders
  • Include large fines and long prison sentences as penalties
  • Do not include exemptions
  • Include counseling provisions for convicted abusers
  • Prevent convicted abusers from owning or living with animals in the future

One of the ways in which animal organizations achieve change at the state level is through initiative petitions. These are petitions dealing with specific issues that receive enough signatures from the public to spur the inclusion of proposed measures on ballots during state elections. According to the State of the Animals III, initiative petition drives coordinated by animal protection groups were largely unsuccessful until 1990, when a new approach was undertaken. The HSUS and the Fund for Animals began selectively targeting specific animal issues in states where research indicated a good chance for collection of the signatures and the money needed to put particular measures on the ballot and win support for them on election day. Table 1.8 shows twenty-six animal protection initiatives and referendums passed by voters in various states between 1990 and 2002. Table 1.9 lists thirteen animal initiatives and referendums considered, but rejected, by voters between 1992 and 2002.

The midterm elections of November 2006 were hailed as a great victory for animals by the major animal protection groups in the country. According to the HSLF (November 8, 2006,, 86% of the candidates for the U.S. Senate and 91% of the candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives it had endorsed were victorious. In addition, several statewide ballot measures were passed that animal welfare groups had championedchiefly a ban on the use of confining cages for pigs and veal calves in Arizona and a defeat of a proposed mourning dove hunt in Michigan.

Animal anti-cruelty laws, by state, April 2006
StateStatute number of cruelty lawFelonyClassification of crime/maximum level of penaltyMaximum fineMaximum jail timePsychological counselingYear enacted into a felony
Alabama§13A-11-241YesClass C felony on the first offense (cruelty in the first degree)$5,00010 years2000
§13A-11-14NoClass B misdemeanor
Alaska11.61.140NoClass A misdemeanor$5,0001 year
Arizona13-2910YesClass 6 felony on the first offense$150,0001 year1999
Arkansas5-62-101NoClass A misdemeanor$1,0001 yearMay order (2001)
California597YesFelony can apply on first conviction.$20,0001-3 yearsMandatory1988
Colorado18-9-202YesAggravated cruelty is a class 6 felony and any subsequent offense would be a class 5 felony.Minimum $1,000 maximum $100,000Class 6: min. 1 year, max. 18 mo.; class 5: min. 1 year, max. 3 years.May order an evaluation or anger management treatment on the 1st offense. Shall order on the 2nd offense.2002
Connecticut53-247Yes$5,0005 yearsMay order animal cruelty prevention or counseling & education program.1996
Delaware1325YesClass F felony$5,0003 years1994
District of ColumbiaD.C. Code 22-1001YesFelony$25,0005 years2001
Florida828.12YesFelony of the third degree$10,0005 yearsPsychological counseling/anger management treatment is mandatory for acts of intentional torture/torment.1989
Georgia16-12-4 (b) (c)First offense-misdemeanor.$1,000 (up to)Up to 1 yearSecond offense-misdemeanor for unjustifiable pain/suffering.2000
Second offense of causing death is a high aggravated misdemeanor.$5,000 (up to)Up to 1 year
Second offense of causing death is a high aggravated misdemeanor.$10,000 (up to)3 months to 1 year.
YesFirst offense$15,0001-5 years.
Second offense$100,000
definitions: 25-3502
No3 stages of misdemeanor$5,000-$9,0006 months to 1 year.
Illinois510 §3.02 & 510 70/4.01& 70/16YesClass 3 felony for torture on 1st offense. Class 4 felony for aggravated cruelty.$50,0003-5 years
1-3 years
May order1999
Indiana35-46-3-12YesClass D felony on the first conviction of torture or mutilation.$10,0003 yearsMandatory evaluation and treatment.1998
In 2002 felony on the first.
Iowa717B.3A-Animal torture
YesSecond offense committed is a Class D felony.$7,5005 yearsShall order2000
Kansas21-4310YesFirst offense is a non-person misdemeanor.$500-$500030 days to 1 yearEvaluation is mandated.2006
Kentucky525.135YesFirst offense of torture is a Class A misdemeanor.$1000-$10,0001-5 years for felony2003
525.130 class A mis.Subsequent offenses are a Class D felony$500-for 1 misdemeanor1 year-for misdemeanor
LouisianaLa. R.S.14: 102.1 (2004)Yes$25,00010 years1995
Animal anti-cruelty laws, by state, April 2006 [continued]
StateStatute number of cruelty lawFelonyClassification of crime/maximum level of penaltyMaximum fineMaximum jail timePsychological counselingYear enacted into a felony
NoIf two or more convictions of civil or criminal animal cruelty charges, a felony or max fine is charged.$5,000Not ordered in civil prosecutionShall order if JV May order for all others2001
YesFelony penalty for the first violation of aggravated animal cruelty.$10,0005 years
MarylandCriminal Law,
YesFirst conviction of aggravated cruelty is a felony.$5,0003 yearsMay order2001
Massachusetts272 §77 and 266§112YesFirst conviction is a felony.$2,5005 years in a the state rison or 2½ in the house of correction1804 increased penalties in 2004
Michigan750 §50bYesFelony$5,0004 yearsMay order1931
Minnesota343.21YesFelony10,0002 yearsMay order2001
Mississippi97-41-16No$1,0006 months
97-41-1No$1,0006 months
97-41-15Yes-for livestock onlySpecial felony for livestock (does not include companion animals or wildlife)$1500-$10,000
12 months-5 years
Missouri578.012YesClass D felony (first offense of torture or mutilation)$5,0005 years1994
Montana45-8-217YesFirst offense of aggravated cruelty is a felony.Up to $2,5002 years (Dept. of corrections).1993
Nebraska28-1009YesThe first conviction of torture, beating or mutilation is a IV degree felony.$10,0005 years5 years20022nd offense,
20031st offense
Nevada574.100YesThe third offense committed is a felony.$10,0005 yearsMandatory for juveniles1999
New HampshireRSA 644:8YesFirst offense of beating or torturing$4,0007 years1994
New Jersey4:22-17YesCrime of the fourth degree on the first offense (felony equivalent)$15,0003-5 yearsShall order juveniles for certain animal cruelty offenses2001
New Mexico30-18-1Yes"Extreme cruelty to animals" is a felony in the first offense. Fourth offense committed of "cruelty to animals" is a felony.$5,00018 monthsMay order
Shall order for JV's.
New York353-a 55.10 penal lawYesAggravated cruelty to a companion animal is a Class E felony.$5,000 (§80)4 years (§70)1999
North Carolina14-360YesFirst offense of cruelly beating, mutilating, torturing, poisoning of killing any animal is a Class I felony.$1,0006 months1998
North Dakota36-21.1-02NoClass A misdemeanor$2,0001 year
Ohio959.13YesSecond offense committed is a 5th degree felony.$2,0001 yearMay order2002
959.02No1st degree misdemeanor$1,000180 days
Oklahoma21-1685YesFelony on first offense committed$5,0005 years in state jail, 1 year in a county jail1887
Oregon167.322YesClass C felony on the first offense$100,0005 yearsMay order1995
Pennsylvania18-5511YesThe second offense committed on a dog or cat is a felony of the 3rd degree. First offense committed on a zoo animal is a felony of the 3rd degree.$15,0007 yearsMay order (the court may order a presentence mental evaluation)1995
Animal anti-cruelty laws, by state, April 2006 [continued]
StateStatute number of cruelty lawFelonyClassification of crime/maximum level of penaltyMaximum fineMaximum jail timePsychological counselingYear enacted into a felony
Source: Adapted from "State Animal Anti-Cruelty Law Provisions," in State Anti-Cruelty Laws: Fact Sheet, Humane Society of the United States, April 2006, (accessed January 1, 2007)
Rhode Island4-1-3First offense committed is a felony.$1,0002 years§4-1-36May order an evaluation1896
South Carolina47-1-40YesFirst offense is a felony.$5,0005 years2000
South Dakota40-1-21 & 40-1-27No
Yes for bestiality only
Class 1 misdemeanor$1,0001 year
YesFirst offense of aggravated cruelty is a felony.9 month minimum(mandatory) no suspended sentence or probation until 9 months are served.Shall order2001
2002 Felony on the 1st offense was passed in 2004
TexasSec. 42.09
Sec. 12.21
Sec. 12.35
YesFelony of the 3rd degree if the person has been convicted two times prior. The first offense is a lesser felony.$10,0002 yearsMandatory for juveniles1997
Utah76-9-301NoClass A misdemeanor$5,0001 yearMandatory for juveniles
Vermont352YesFirst act of cruelty committed is a felony.$7,5005 yearsMay order1998 improved 2004
Virginia3.1-796.122YesFirst offense committed is a felony.$2,5005 yearsMay order1999felony Upgraded in 2002.
Washington16.52.205YesFirst offense committed is a class C felony.$10,0005 yearsMay order1994
West Virginia61-8-19YesFirst offense committed is a felony.$1,000-$5,0005 yearsShall order an evaluation2003
For livestock §61-3-27YesFelony only applies to animals with "value" over $100.
Wisconsin§951.18 (2004) §951.02-mistreatingYesFelony$10,0005 years1986
Wyoming§6-3-203YesFelony$5,0002 years2003
Puerto RicoLaw 439
Amends 67
Grave offense in the 4th degree2004
Virgin Islands§181YesFelony$2,000-$5,0002 years2005
Successful animal protection initiatives and referendums, by state, selected years 19902002
YearStateWinsPercentage voting yesPercentage voting no
Note: Italics indicate bad measures that were defeated.
*Referendum (referred to ballot by state legislature).
Source: Andrew N. Rowan and Beth Rosen, "Table 7a. Animal Protection Initiatives and ReferendumsWins," in The State of the Animals III: 2005, Humane Society of the United States, December 31, 2005, (accessed November 28, 2006)
1990CAProposition 117: Prohibits sport hunting of mountain lions5248
1992COAmendment 10: Prohibits spring, bait, and hound hunting of black bears7030
1994AZProposition 201: Prohibits steel-jawed traps and other body-gripping traps5842
ORMeasure 18: Bans bear baiting and hound hunting of mountain lions5248
1996AKMeasure 3: Bans same-day airborne hunting of wolves and foxes5842
CAProposition 197*: Allows trophy hunting of mountain lions4258
COAmendment 14: Bans leghold traps and other body-gripping traps5248
MAQuestion 1: Restricts steel-jawed traps and other body-gripping traps, bans hound hunting of bears and bobcats, and eliminates quota for hunters on Fisheries and Wildlife Board6436
ORMeasure 34*: Repeals ban on bear baiting and hound hunting of bears and cougars4258
WAInitiative 655: Bans bear baiting and hound hunting of bears, cougars, bobcats, and lynx6337
1998AZProposition 201: Prohibits cockfighting6832
CAProposition 4: Bans the use of cruel and indiscriminate traps and poisons5743
CAProposition 6: Prohibits slaughter of horses and sale of horse meat for human consumption5941
COAmendment 13: Provides uniform regulations of livestock3961
COAmendment 14: Regulates commercial hog factories6238
MOProposition A: Prohibits cockfighting6337
2000AKMeasure 1*: Bans wildlife issues from ballot3664
AKMeasure 6: Bans land-and-shoot wolf hunting5347
AZProposition 102*: Require two-thirds majority for wildlife issues3862
MTInitiative 143: Prohibits new game farm licenses5248
WAInitiative 713: Restricts steel-jawed traps and certain poisons5545
2002AZProposition 201: Expands gambling at greyhound tracks2080
FLAmendment 10: Bans gestation crates for pigs5545
GAMeasure 6*: Specialty license plate for spay/neuter7129
OKState question 687: Bans cockfighting5644
OKState question 698*: Increases signature requirement for animal issues4654
Defeated animal protection initiatives and referendums, by state, selected years 19922002
YearStateLossesPercentage voting yesPercentage voting no
*Referendum (referred to ballot by state legislature).
Source: Andrew N. Rowan and Beth Rosen, "Table 7b. Animal Protection Initiatives and ReferendumsLosses," in The State of the Animals III: 2005, Humane Society of the United States, December 31, 2005, (accessed November 28, 2006)
1992AZProposition 200: Bans steel-jawed traps and other body-gripping traps3862
1996IDProposition 2: Bans spring bait, and hound hunting of black bears4060
MIProposal D: Bans baiting and hounding of black bears3862
MIProposal G*: Exclusive authority over wildlife to National Resources Committee in Michigan6436
1998AKProposition 9: Bans wolf snare trapping3664
MNAmendment 2: Constitutional recognition of hunting7723
OHIssue 1: Restores ban on mourning dove hunting4060
UTProposition 5*: Requires two-thirds majority for wildlife ballot issues5644
MAQuestion 3: Bans greyhound racing4951
2000NDQuestion 1: Constitutional recognition of hunting7723
ORMeasure 97: Restricts steel-jawed traps and certain poisons5941
VAQuestion 2*: Constitutional recognition of hunting6040
2002ARInitiated Act 1: Increases penalties for animal cruelty3862

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