Overview of State Laws Relating to the Amount of Space Given to Farm Animals

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I am speaking today in Atlantic City at the New Jersey State Bar Association’s (“NJSBA”) Annual Meeting on a couple farm animal law issues.  One of the topics that I will be addressing today includes an overview of state legislation/regulation over the amount of space given to farm animals.

Seven states have had laws sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (i.e., Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, California, Maine, and Michigan) whereas nine states have had laws sponsored by the agricultural community (i.e., Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Indiana, Utah, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama).  It was an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the existing confinement laws at the state level.

The timeline for these confinement laws is as follows:


Florida:  This was the first state to propose and pass a livestock confinement law in the United States via a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment (55% in support).  The law prohibits confining/tethering a “pig during pregnancy” so that she cannot turn around freely.  Exceptions include:  (1) necessary veterinary care, and (2) sows/gilts who are seven days or less before due date (“pre-birthing period”).  Violations of this state law include imprisonment for one year or less and/or a fine no greater than $5,000.00.  The law became effective in November 2008 and to date there have not been any convictions under this law.


Arizona:  This was the first state to pass a law that covers the confinement of both veal calves and pregnant sows.  It also passed this law via ballot initiative (62% in favor).  The law proscribes confining or tethering veal calves or pregnant sows for “all or a majority of the day” by prohibiting animal from:  (1) lying down and extending limbs or (2) turning around freely.  Exceptions include:  (1) veterinary care, (2) pre-birthing period (7 days before due date), (3) scientific research, (4) transportation, (5) exhibition, and (6) harvest.  The law will go into effect on December 31, 2012.  Violations of this state law include imprisonment for six months or less and/or $2,500 maximum fine ($20,000 maximum fine for an enterprise).


Oregon:  This was the first legislatively passed statute in the U.S. and it applies to pregnant sows only.  The statute prohibits the confinement of a pregnant pig if the person “confines a pregnant pig for more than 12 hours during any 24-hour period in a manner that prevents the pregnant pig from: (a) Lying down and fully extending its limbs; or (b) turning around freely.”  Exceptions include:  (1) transportation, (2) exhibition, (3) harvesting, (4) scientific research, (5) veterinary care, and (6) pre-birthing period (7 days before due date).  The law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2012 and makes it a Class A violation punishable by a fine of $720 or less ($1,440 maximum for an enterprise).


Colorado:  This law in Colorado covers both veal calves and “confined pregnant” sows.  It makes it unlawful to prevent an animal from standing up, lying down and turning around without touching the sides of the enclosure.  Exceptions include:  (1) scientific research, (2) veterinary care, (3) transportation, (4) exhibition, and (5) harvest.  The effective dates for the law are January 1, 2012 (for veal calves) and January 1, 2018 (for sows).  Penalties include 3-12 mos. imprisonment and/or $250-$1000 fine.  Colorado may also include community service.

California:  Not only does this law apply to pregnant sows and veal calves but it also applies to laying hens (first state to do so).  This law passed by a ballot initiative (“Proposition 2”) with 63% of voters in support.  The law prohibits the prevention of an animal from lying down, standing up and fully extending limbs or turning around freely.  Exceptions include:  (1) scientific research, (2) veterinary care, (3) transportation, (4) exhibitions, (5) harvest, and (6) pre-birthing period (7 days before birth).  The law allows local governing body to adopt/enforce its own animal welfare law/regulations.  The effective date for this law is January 1, 2015.  In 2010, California passed a law that prohibits shelled eggs from being sold for human consumption in California if the farm is not in compliance with California’s animal care standard.  This law will go into effect on January 1, 2015 and imposes maximum imprisonment of 180 days or fine of $1000.  There are currently interstate commerce clause concerned on this particular law that is currently being examined.


Maine: This law applies to both pregnant sows and veal calves.  It makes it unlawful to prevent an animal from “[l]ying down, standing up and fully extending the animal’s limbs; and [t]urning around freely.” (emphasis added).  Exceptions include:  (1) scientific research, (2) veterinary care, (3) transportation, (4) exhibition, (5) harvest, and (6) pre-birthing period (7 days prior).  The law does not allow for an affirmative defense that the animal was kept in compliance with best management practices.  This law also allows for a local governing body to adopt and enforce its own animal welfare laws.  This law went into effect on January 1, 2011.

Michigan:  Michigan’s law applies to pregnant sows, veal calves, and laying hens and makes it unlawful to prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, and fully extending limbs or turning around freely.  More specifically, laying hens must have access to at least 1 square foot of floor space.  Exceptions include:  (1) scientific research, (2) veterinary care, (3) transportation, (4) exhibitions, (5) harvest, (6) pre-birthing period (7 days before).  Interestingly, a violation is a civil offense in Michigan (vs. criminal offense) allowing the Michigan Department of Agriculture to bring a civil action for injunctive relief.  The effective dates for the statute are October 1, 2012 (for laying hens and sows) and October 1, 2019 (for veal calves).

Oklahoma:  Oklahoma was one of the first states to have a response statute from the agriculture community.  Oklahoma’s law prohibits local governments (i.e., municipalities, counties, or political subdivisions of the state) from enacting/enforcing any “order, ordinance, or regulation concerning the care and handling of livestock within its jurisdiction.”  The law reserves the power for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to implement policies for animal handling/care.

South Carolina:  South Carolina’s law also prohibits local governments from enacting “ordinances, orders, or other regulations concerning the care and handling of livestock and poultry. . .” but reserves this right to laws enacted by the General Assembly and regulations promulgated by state agencies.  This law does not apply to land use and zoning regulations or nuisance suits related to agriculture operations (i.e., Right to Farm Act).

Georgia:  This law prohibits local governments from adopting or enforcing any ordinance, rule, regulation, or resolution regulating “animal husbandry practices involved in the production of agricultural or farm products on any private property.”  It effectively reserves this right to the state legislature.  Again, this law does not apply to land use and zoning regulations.

Ohio:  I previously blogged on this topic.  The constitutional amendment creates a “Livestock Care Standards Board” to govern “the care and well-being of livestock and poultry” in Ohio.  The Board is comprised of thirteen members:  (1) Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, (2) a food safety expert, (3) two members from Ohio agriculture organizations, (4) a veterinarian, (5) the State Veterinarian, (6) the dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, (7) two members from Ohio consumer groups,  (8) a member of a county humane society organized under Ohio law, amd (9) three family farms (one appointed by the Governor, one appointed by the House, and one appointed by the Senate).   A unique prohibition– no more than seven board members may be from the same political party.  The Board has the authority to establish standards subject to the authority of the General Assembly.  The law requires that that Board consider agricultural best management practices for care and well-being, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity/mortality, food safety, and the protection of local/affordable food for Ohio consumers.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture has the authority to oversee and enforce the livestock care standards.  You can find both proposed and effective standards here.


Alabama:  This state also now prohibits local governments from adopting rules & regulations regulating animal husbandry and reserves this power to the State Veterinarian.

Indiana:  Indiana’s state code allows for the state board of animal health to “establish standards governing the care of livestock and poultry.”  When adopting the standards, the board should consider (1) the health and husbandry of the livestock and poultry, (2) generally accepted farm management practices, (3) generally accepted veterinary standards and practices, and (4) the economic impact on livestock/poultry farmers/sector and consumers.

Utah:  Utah has created an “Agricultural Advisory Board comprised on 14 members representing each of the following” groups:  (1)  Utah Farm Bureau Federation, (2) Utah Farmers Union, (3) Utah Cattlemen’s Association, (4) Utah Wool Growers’ Association, (5) Utah Dairymen’s Association, (6) Utah Pork Producer’s Association, (7) egg and poultry producers, (8) Utah Veterinary Medical Association, (9) Livestock Auction Marketing Association, (10)Utah Association of Conservation Districts, (11) the Utah horse industry, (12) the food processing industry, and (13) a consumer affairs group.  When establishing standards, the Board shall consider food safety, local availability/affordability of food, and acceptable practices for livestock and farm management.  Members of the Board will be appointed by the Commissioner and will hold a four-year term of office.

West Virginia:  In West Virginia, the legislature created a Livestock Care Standards Board comprised of thirteen members from the following groups:  (1)  Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (ex officio non-voting chairperson of the Board), (2) Director of the Animal Health Division (ex officio non-voting), (3) a veterinarian, (4) the Dean of the West Virginia University, College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, (5) a member representing a county humane society that is organized under state law, (6) a food safety expert, (7) two West Virginia consumers, (8) two members representing West Virginia agriculture organizations –one of whom must be a member of the “largest organization in the state” and the other must be a member of a statewide livestock organization, and (9) three people representing family farms — at least two of whom are from a family farm.  Like Ohio, “[n]o more than seven members of the board may be of the same political party. . .”  The West Virginia Department of Agriculture will administer and enforce the standards established by the board.  The Board will have the power to establish standards governing the (a) care and well-being of livestock, (b) maintenance of food safety, (c) encouragement of locally grown food, and (d) protection of West Virginia farms and families.  When establishing standards, the Board will consider:  (a) best management practices, (b) biosecurity, disease prevention and mortality data, (c) food safety practices, and (d) the protection of local, affordable, food  supplies for consumers.

Louisiana:  Louisiana created a Board of Animal Health with the powers to establish standards for the care and well-being of livestock and poultry.  The Board shall consider the following factors:  (1) health and husbandry of livestock/poultry, (2) generally accepted farm management practices, (3) generally accepted veterinary standards and practices, and (4) economics for both livestock/poultry producers and consumers.  Local governments in Louisiana are also prohibited from adopting rules/regulations for animal husbandry reserving this power to the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Whew.  I’m tired.  Long blog post.  If you are still with me, my next question is this –what is next on the horizon?  Will more states adopt the Livestock Board framework?

There are several states with either proposed bills to create farm animal welfare boards or HSUS sponsored legislation to mandate space for farm animals.  The Animal Agriculture Alliance did a nice job with this summary on pending legislation at the state level (last updated in December 2010).  I would also like to note this pending bill on the federal level.

I would also like to encourage my readers to get involved in your state’s policy making.  You lose your right to complain when you sit on the sidelines.  For those of you who are in New York, please review this previous post on changing the law through involvement in New York Farm Bureau.  I also recommend speaking to law makers (or their aids) directly.

If you are seeking counsel on compliance with the confinement laws in your state, please contact an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.  This post, or any other post on this blog, should not be construed as legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  These statutes impose serious civil/criminal penalties for violations so it is very important that you seek legal counsel regarding compliance with any of the aforementioned laws.

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Comments 1

  1. Thanks for taking the time to compile this information! It can be a challenge to stay updated with all of the legislative action at the state level, but it’s so important that those in ag understand how these regulations can impact their businesses. The National Ag Law Center’s website on state-level animal welfare statutes is a great resource, too.

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