American Samoa ranked last among US territories on laws protecting animals
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa ranked fifth among the five-US territories and the District of Columbia on laws protecting animals, according to 2018 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report by the US-based Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
According to an ALDF explanation on its website listed under the American Samoa page, “American Samoa...Code does not contain enough provisions that are akin to animal cruelty prohibitions as seen in the states.
“However, there are some provisions relating to hunting, fishing, or otherwise taking wildlife, as well as keeping certain wildlife.”
The 2018 report is the 13th year the ALDF published the Ranking Report, and the 11th year it included the US territories which covers American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.
According to the US territories report, American Samoa is behind the District of Columbia (which ranked first), U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam; and in front of CNMI.
“The Rankings Report looks at 19 different categories of animal protection laws, primarily pertaining to acts of criminal animal cruelty,” said Kathleen M. Wood, an attorney for ALDF and one of the authors of the Ranking Report, in response to Samoa News questions.
“We do not look at hunting and fishing laws or import/export laws. We also look exclusively at statutes at the state and territory level—therefore we do not consider federal laws, local ordinances, or any administrative regulations,” she said yesterday.
“Because of this narrow focus, only one statute in American Samoa’s code truly addresses animal welfare,” she continued. And that law, ASCA 25.1605, requires that structures or enclosures for animals be kept clean, free from accumulation of filth, and in a sanitary condition.
“There are not any statutes addressing other forms of cruelty, such as beating, cruelly killing, or otherwise neglecting an animal,” she pointed out.
Samoa News asked about provisions of current law - or new law - that American Samoa needs to address to improve its ranking. Wood pointed out that four territories ranked above American Samoa - all of which have laws that prohibit various forms of animal cruelty.
“Those territories also have legal systems in place for seizing and caring for an animal that has been cruelly treated at all stages of the criminal case, from investigations to criminal sentencing,” she explained.
“In order to raise its rank, American Samoa would need to enact laws specifically addressing the issue of animal cruelty. ALDF assists states and territories with legislative efforts, and can provide model legislation,” she added.
For the 50-states in the US, the Ranking Report shows that Illinois leads the “Best Five” states while Kentucky is ranked 50th. Hawaii is 41st in the report. According to the ALDF, Illinois has maintained its rank as first in the nation for animal protection laws for 11 years.
ALDF, whose mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, was founded in 1979 by attorneys active in shaping the emergency field of animal law. And its presence is visible in the US, where it files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm.
Details and information about ALDF as well as the Ranking Report can be viewed at [www.aldf.org]