State Legislative Analysis

 Legislating Livestock Care Standards

Last updated February 2015

Following the lead of Florida and Arizona, California citizens approved Proposition 2, “Standards for Confining Farm Animals,” in 2009.  On the heels of this landmark ballot initiative, states began to propose and adopt bills designed to avoid legislating livestock standards through ballot initiatives.  The purpose of these bills is to utilize existing or new state agencies comprised of individuals with agricultural expertise to make decisions relative to livestock care standards.  In addition, new legislation is being introduced to limit the authority of local governments to adopt their own livestock care standards.


In the 2009 legislative session, the Georgia legislature limited the authority of local governments to interfere in livestock care standards.  Georgia’s HB 529 provided that no county, municipality, consolidated government, or other political subdivision shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, rule, regulation, or resolution regulating crop management or animal husbandry practices involved in the production of agricultural or farm products on any private property.  In addition, Michigan’s HB 5127, as introduced, would have granted the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Commission of Agriculture sole authority to regulate livestock health and welfare.  By the time this bill passed the House, however, this provision had been removed.

In recent years, legislators have been even more active in their attempt to regulate livestock care.  Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia adopted bills relating to livestock care standards and/or local government authority over livestock care. 
Alabama (HB 561) prohibited local governments from adopting laws and rules relating to livestock and animal husbandry on private property.  It provided that regulation of livestock and animal husbandry is within the sole jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Industries and the State Board of Agriculture and Industries.
Illinois (SB 3604) required the Governor's appointees to the Advisory Board of Livestock Commissioners to, among other things, be interested in the well-being of domestic animals and poultry.  It also requires the Illinois Department of Agriculture's rules pertaining to the well-being of domestic animals and poultry to be submitted to the Advisory Board for its approval.
Indiana (HB 1099) allowed the Board of Animal Health to adopt rules to establish standards governing the care of livestock and poultry. In 2011, the board adopted standards addressing proper food, water, and shelter requirements as well as treatment of disease and injury.  Proper food and water is defined as that which can reasonably be expected to maintain the health of animals of that species, breed, sex, and age, raised using the applicable production method.  Shelter requirements require a person to provide the animals access to sufficient shelter from the weather when it can reasonably be expected to be necessary to maintain the health of animals of that species, breed, sex, and age, raised using the applicable production method.
Kentucky (HB 398) created the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission to make recommendations to establish, maintain, or revise standards governing the care and well-being of on-farm livestock and poultry.  The Commission consists of 16 members including the state veterinarian (a non-voting member), and one veterinarian selected from a list of 3 submitted by the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association.  In March 2014, the Department of Agriculture approved a number of on-farm livestock and poultry care standards based on the Commission’s recommendations.
Louisiana (SB 36) required the Louisiana Board of Animal Health to establish standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry bred, kept, maintained, raised or used for show, profit or for the purpose of selling or otherwise producing crops, animals, or plant or animal products for market.  The bill also provided that no municipality, parish, local governmental entity or governing authority of any group or association, private or public, having jurisdiction over a specific geographic area shall enact ordinances, laws, subdivision restrictions or regulations establishing standards applicable to the care and well-being of livestock and poultry, with certain exceptions.  Local governments may request that the rules and regulations be amended to provide for specific problems encountered by the locality, and may petition the commissioner for approval of an ordinance establishing standards of care and well-being. In 2013, the board issued the standards required by statute, which also included standards for management and destruction of animals during an emergency and guidelines for mass euthanasia.
Ohio (HB 414) established the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which since 2011 issued standards providing for general care of livestock, proper food and water requirements, housing, livestock handling, transportation, disabled and distressed livestock, and management of dairy cattle. New rules require prescriptions and extra-label medications to be obtained and administered to livestock with the advice and involvement of a licensed veterinarian in the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient-relationship. The board also set civil penalties for violations.
Rhode Island (H 8173/S 2618) created the Livestock Welfare and Care Standards Advisory Council. The purpose of the advisory council is to serve as an advisory body to the director of Department of Environmental Management and the general assembly in making recommendations related to the overall health and welfare of livestock species.  


Utah (HB 155) expanded the duties and membership of the Agricultural Advisory Board to encompass issues related to the care of livestock and poultry.  It provided that when establishing standards, the Agricultural Advisory Board may consider: (1) food safety; (2) local availability and affordability of food; and (3) acceptable practices for livestock and farm management.
Vermont (SB 295) established a Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council for the purposes of evaluating the laws of the state and providing policy recommendations regarding the care, handling, and well-being of livestock in Vermont.  Among the members will be the State Veterinarian and an individual with experience investigating charges of animal cruelty involving livestock, provided that no such person who has received or is receiving compensation from a national humane society or organization may be appointed.
West Virginia (HB 4201) created the Livestock Care Standards Board to prescribe standards for livestock care and well being that will help to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect West Virginia farms and families.  It provided that the Department of Agriculture shall administer and enforce the standards established by the Board that are approved by the legislature. In 2015, the Department of Agriculture issued rules governing the care and well-being of livestock, including veterinary care, for beef cattle, bison, veal, dairy cattle, equine, swine, small ruminant and poultry.
In the 2011 session, Washington (SB 5487) adopted a bill that established enforceable minimum standards to protect the health and well-being of egg laying hens in commercial egg laying operations.  The bill provides that entities providing eggs or egg products for intrastate commerce that apply for either an egg handler or egg dealer license before January 1, 2026, must include proof that their eggs are produced by egg layer operations that meet the 2010 version of the United Egg Producer's (UEP) animal husbandry guidelines.  It further provides that any new facilities built between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2016, must also show they were approved under or convertible to the American Humane Association (AHA) Facility System Plan for Enriched Colony Housing in effect on January 1, 2011.   
Oregon also adopted laws concerning egg-laying hens in the 2011 legislative session.  Senate Bill 805 directs the Department of Agriculture to adopt rules regulating the manner in which egg laying hens may be confined in an enclosure.  The new law requires enclosures constructed or acquired before January 1, 2012 to meet standards equivalent to the requirements for certification established in the United Egg Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines for US Egg Laying Flocks.  The law also requires enclosures constructed or acquired on or after that date to be convertible into enclosures that meet standards equivalent to the requirements for certification of enriched colony facility systems established in the American Humane Association’s farm animal welfare certification program.  The law continues to set out more stringent standards that will be progressively implemented over the course of 15 years. 
In 2011, New Jersey readopted slightly modified guidelines that relate to the care of livestock. The guidelines address the care of cattle, horses, poultry, rabbits, small ruminants, and swine. Under these guidelines, sick or injured animals must be promptly treated or humanely euthanized using acceptable methods of euthanasia as set forth by the AVMA, and dead animals shall be removed within 24 hours from contact with any livestock. The regulations do not prohibit owners from providing care and treatment to their own animals in compliance with state and federal laws. The regulations also outline specific standards of care for different species. For example, cattle must have daily access to sufficient nutrition as is appropriate for growth and maintenance of the animal’s body condition. Tail docking in cattle is only permitted upon determination by a veterinarian on an individual basis. Additionally, equine management and training can only be carried out by a knowledgeable individual; all horses for public hire must have routine hoof and medical care; and enough strength and rest is required to maintain the horse’s health. For poultry, beak trimming, toe trimming, and dubbing can be performed by a knowledgeable individual. The regulation of rabbit care is similar. A rabbit’s teeth must be maintained in adequate condition to maintain the animal’s health and shall be performed by knowledgeable individuals. Small ruminant tail docking may be performed by a knowledgeable individual. Finally, swine, when being transported, must be able to stand in a normal position and tail docking, teeth trimming, and tusk trimming may be performed by a knowledgeable individual. Acceptable methods for conducting the procedures found in the regulations are adopted by reference and can be found within the guidelines.

Source:  Staff Research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy & Leadership
Contact:  AVMA Division o​f State Advocacy & Leadership