A patriotic cat in a bowtie sits in front of the American flag.

Pets and Politics: When Cats and Dogs Are on the Ballot

Early voting has already started in some states and, elsewhere, Americans are getting ready to cast their ballots on November 3rd. In addition to picking their candidate for local and federal positions, many will have an opportunity to directly affect policies in their state, city, or county. Some of these issues may relate to preserving animal rights and enforcing responsible pet ownership.

For decades, advocacy groups like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (ASPCA) and the U.S. Humane Society (USHS) have fought to give animals a voice. Their efforts have helped put a number of critical issues on the ballot and create a new standard for ethical pet parenthood.

Fighting Animal Abuse

Animal advocates are committed to addressing both systematic animal abuse (such as dog fighting rings) and more isolated incidents. USHS notes that individuals who abuse their pets are often guilty of other domestic abuse, as well as additional crimes. The organization was instrumental in passing the Pet and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act. Signed into law in 2018, the bill makes it easier for abused partners to retain ownership of their pets in the event of a separation or divorce.

Efforts from lawmakers and pet lovers have helped to fight animal cruelty in all 50 states. In 2014, South Dakota became the final state to introduce an anti-cruelty law with felony provisions. The FBI also recently began collecting animal cruelty data in its Uniform Crime Report.

Leash Laws

There are a number of ways that your state or local government can police handling and housing your dog. A so-called “leash law” might enforce one, some, or all of the following:

Check out a detailed summary of leash laws across the country.

Vaccination Guidelines

Part of responsibly owning a pet is making sure they’re not dangerous to your family, friends, and neighbors. Depending on where you live, your dog or cat might require a whole host of vaccinations. These keep your pet (and other pets) safe from rabies, canine distemper virus, and other illnesses. Your veterinarian can help you determine which specific vaccinations your pet will need and when they’ll need them.


Declawing a cat might look like cutting their nails, but it’s actually a much more invasive, painful procedure. Opponents argue that it’s analogous to amputating a cat’s limbs. It’s illegal throughout Canada, in many parts of the European Union, and in several U.S. cities. In 2018, New York introduced the nation’s first statewide ban. New Yorkers now face fines of up to $1,000 if they choose to declaw their cats.

The Puppy Mill Pipeline

Like any lucrative industry, the pet industry includes its fair share of unscrupulous players. Among its cruelest aspects is the “puppy mill pipeline,” a supply chain that leads from inhumane breeding facilities to pet stores and breeders across the country. To combat the unethical animal trade, several states have moved to ban in-store pet sales. This year, New York took major steps toward joining California and Maryland in cracking down on puppy mills.

Are You Registered to Vote?

Election Day will be here before you know it. Don’t forget to check your registration status well before November 3rd to ensure your voice is heard.