What is Animal Cruelty?

Cruelty to Animals:

Laws are created by each state to protect animals from mistreatment, abuse and neglect. Generally, the owner of an animal is responsible for proper feeding, care, shelter and treatment. Mistreatment can result in fines, incarceration and other consequences.

What is an “Animal?”

For purposes of clarification, many state statutes make a distinction between “animals,” “livestock,” “pet” and “wild creature.” In Texas, for example, an animal is defined as “a domesticated living creature and wild living creature previously captured.”

Cruelty to Animals – State Laws Define Permissible Conduct:

There are generally two categories of conduct that are penalized by state law:

  • Intentional acts to animals that result in mistreatment
  • Failure to act properly in regard to animal treatment

What Types of Animal Conduct are Considered Cruel?

In Texas, a person commits an offense if they knowingly or intentionally:

  • Torture a livestock animal
  • Fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water or care
  • Abandons a livestock animal that is in their care
  • Transports or confines livestock in a cruel and unusual manner
  • Causes fighting between animals
  • Uses a live livestock animal as a lure in animal training or on a racetrack
  • Seriously overworks a livestock animal
  • Many other categories are covered

What Does “Cruel Manner” and Torture Mean in Regard to Animal Mistreatment?

  • A manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering
  • Any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering - torture

Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals:

As per the Texas laws, the following definitions are useful:

  • Abandon – leaving an animal without making reasonable arrangements for custody
  • Animal – domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, as well as a “wild living creature previously captured.”
  • Custody – responsibility for the health and welfare of the animal

Committing an Act of Animal Abuse:

A person commits an act of animal abuse if they knowingly, intentionally or recklessly:

  • Torture the animal – causing unjustifiable pain and suffering
  • Without the owner’s consent, administers poison to the animal or causes serious bodily injury
  • Fails to unreasonably provide food, water, care or shelter
  • Abandons the animal
  • Transports the animal in a cruel manner
  • Causes one animal to fight with another
  • Seriously overworks an animal

What are the Penalties for Cruelty to Animals?

Penalties for misconduct vary greatly from state to state. For example, the maximum amount of incarceration varies from a low of six months in North Carolina to a high of 15 years in Idaho. Fines vary greatly as well. Here are several examples of state penalties:

Alabama – 10 years, maximum jail, $5000 maximum fine
Alaska – 1 year maximum jail, $10,000 maximum fine
Arizona – 1 year maximum jail, $150,000 maximum fine
Arkansas – 1 year maximum jail, $1,000 maximum fine

California – 3 years maximum jail, $20,000 maximum fine
Colorado – 6 years  maximum jail, $500,000 maximum fine
D.C. – 5 years, maximum jail, $25,000 maximum fine
Idaho – 15 years maximum jail, $9,000 maximum fine
Iowa – 5 years maximum jail, $75,000 maximum fine

Louisiana – 10 years maximum jail, $25,000 maximum fine
Montana – 2 years maximum jail, $2500 maximum fine
Oregon – 5 years maximum jail, $100,000 maximum fine
Tennessee – 9 months maximum jail, No fine listed
Wyoming – 2 years maximum jail, $5,000 maximum fines

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law