Local laws are seen to make positive improvement for animal welfare, but still require pressure to influence state laws.

Municipal ordinances can be an effective way to create animal protection laws at the local level, and could lead to great success at the state level. Passing laws at the local level allows people to help animals in their communities, while providing a model for other cities and jurisdictions. Local laws can also create momentum for statewide initiatives, which demonstrates a state’s strong commitment to protecting animals.

Legislation is a key avenue animal advocates use to effect change at scale, but there is not much research about how to choose tractable issues and lobby for them successfully. The goal of this project was to look at whether local laws have laid the groundwork for laws at the state level of government, as a potential avenue for change. This study aimed to determine whether there is evidence that local animal laws have been or could influence state laws. And secondarily, whether case law has influenced state legislation.

To this end, we reviewed legal materials relating to animal welfare in the United States. The scope of this review included legislation and case law from the past twenty years, related to a range of animal welfare topics. Our primary focus was on farmed animal issues, but with consideration given to other issues that are similar and potentially generalizable. Our goals were to identify any trends and provide recommendations to advocates based on previous attempts to broaden the scope of animal welfare laws.

Key findings

  1. Similar local laws that are adopted by multiple jurisdictions appear to positively influence the creation of state laws. States seem to be more influenced when there are similar laws adopted widely across a large number of cities, presumably because the enactment of similar laws across the state or nation shows increasing public support for that particular animal topic. This also pressures the state legislature to reevaluate whether or not state laws are adequate to address the issue. When there is little or no similar law at the local level or in other states, it appears more likely that the bill will fail on the first attempt, or even several.
  2. Preemption of local laws by state statutes is the biggest barrier for animal advocates to effect change in municipalities. “Preemption” refers to a higher level of government preventing a lower level of government from regulating a specific issue. The existence of state and federal laws preempting local governments from creating ordinances on specific animal topics make it essentially impossible for a municipality to take action in their community. Each state delegates power – the right to make laws and regulations to benefit their communities – to local governments in that state via the state’s constitution. In cases where local governments are preempted from creating laws on a particular animal issue, there may be no local laws on that topic for advocates to use in support of a state bill. For animal advocates, this is particularly relevant when it comes to farmed animals, because many states use preemption around animal husbandry and care standards in the agriculture industry.
  3. Even when there is preemption, non-binding local resolutions may influence the state legislature, as can litigation in some situations. When local governments’ power to create laws has been preempted, they can create non-binding resolutions to pressure higher levels of government to take action. This can bring awareness to state legislators about an issue the local community is concerned about, potentially inspiring legislators to consider the topic. We saw widespread use of resolutions in this review, with at least 22 resolutions that seemed likely to have influenced legislation, though there were also many that had not. Lawsuits were less frequent, but California Veterinary Medical Ass’n. v. City of West Hollywood (2007) provides an example of litigation being used successfully to reaffirm a city’s power when state preemption was overly broad.
  4. Persistence is necessary, especially for animal issues with less local support. We found that it took multiple attempts for many states to review and refine a bill pertaining to animal issues. Most state bills did not pass on their first introduction. State bills undergo an extensive process of reading, editing, and revision from the House and Senate chambers. Particularly when there are no similar bills or legislation enacted in other states or municipalities, it seems legislators may be wary of passing something without a clear base of support.

Animal protection issues are at varying stages of success and are subject to different challenges. While the primary goal of this report was to examine the influence of local action, an additional goal was to compile data about state and local laws for advocates to use as a starting point for additional research or to suggest actions they can take. State laws identified during our review are described in an Excel spreadsheet on the Open Science Framework

Original source: https://faunalytics.org