Best Place for Pets


According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Utah was ranked 47th as one of the “Worst Five States” for animal protection in 2014.


The Humane Society of Utah (HSU), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and concerned citizens have been busy as bees working with communities throughout the state to save and improve the lives of animals. Let’s see where we were in 2014, what positive changes came about in 2015, and what we can look forward to in 2016.

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The Utah Statutes include municipal pound pet sterilization provisions, rabies control laws, hunting laws that impact dogs and the state’s animal laws. The following are a summary of a few of the recent laws that have been passed.



Neglect: A person is guilty of cruelty to animals if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence fails to provide necessary food, care, or shelter for an animal in his custody.

Fighting: A person is guilty of cruelty to animals if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes any animal to fight with a different kind of animal or creature for amusement or gain.

Abandonment: “Abandon” means to intentionally deposit, leave, or drop off any live animal without providing for the care of that animal; or in a situation where conditions present an immediate, direct, and serious threat to the life, safety, or health of the animal.

Forfeiture: the defendant no longer possess or retains custody of any animal during the period of the defendant’s probation or parole or other period, as designated by the court.

Officer’s Authority: A law enforcement officer may take possession of any animals being treated cruelly.

Warrants to Obtain Evidence: warrants may be obtained by peace officers, state, county, and municipal health, fire, building, and animal control officials.

Repay the Costs: defendant is required to repay the reasonable costs incurred by any person or agency in caring for each animal subjected to a violation.

Ag-gag state: the term “ag-gag” typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of filming or photographing activity on farms without the consent of the property owners. An ag-gag bill was signed into law on March 20, 2012. A proposed scheduling order concerning the ag-gag law was filed in October of this year and a trial will likely take place by the end of next year.

Besides working on improving Utah’s ALDF ranking, everyone is working hard to remove gas chambers in all Utah shelters and pass legislation in 2016 to ban their use completely. Sandy City no longer uses the gas chambers; Draper is considering making the transition to euthanasia by injection only; and South Jordan City residents are letting their City Council Members know they want the gas chamber removed too.

The governor signed House Bill 97 into law in November of 2014 and it went into effect in 2015, making Utah the 19th state in the nation to have a statewide ban on breed discrimination. About 10 communities in Utah had breed restrictions, including banning pit bull terriers within city limits. South Jordan was one of them, but changed its mind after the community rallied for change. It is anticipated that other cities in Utah will do the same.

The HSU is now using ipet technology, allowing internet users to play with adoptable cats online to increase their adoption rate. Following past successes of adoption rates, HSU expects to see an overall live-release rate above 90% (meaning they will be a “no-kill” organization) by the end of 2016. They are also projecting that Utah will be a “no-kill” state by the end of 2019.

HSU was successful in getting an ordinance passed in Salt Lake County to make it unlawful to sell any cats, dogs, or rabbits at a commercial or retail establishment. They are encouraging other cities to adopt this ordinance in order to decrease pet overpopulation problems and increase adoptions.

South Lake County is conducting an off-leash trial period for one year in Canyon Rim Park, Big Cottonwood Regional Park, Mountain Man Park, Flight Park State Recreation Area, Valley Center Park, and Scott Avenue Park. If the pilot program is successful, they will expand the program to other parks, putting Utah on the map as one of the pet-friendly states.

The best place for pets to me means I could take my dog with me on a regular basis. I could take her to off-leash dog parks, public parks, hiking trails, beaches, pet stores, restaurants, festivals, outdoor celebrations, sporting events, malls, and even my neighborhood bar. I also want the state to enforce strong anti-cruelty laws, have ample boarding facilities, annual dog shows, and dog-friendly apartments and hotels.


Gas chambers are still being used in 7 cities.

Utah has made great strides in the battle against animal cruelty. Changes in state laws made many domestic-animal abuse crimes a felony, which is a huge step in the right direction. While there is still more work to be done for Utah to be the best place for pets, it’s becoming clear that our residents are becoming more vocal and taking the action necessary to get us there!


By Mona Mistric