A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if he or she intentionally or knowing tortures an animal, fails to provide food, care, or shelter for an animal, abandons an animal, transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner, kills or seriously injures an animal that belongs to another person, or causes an animal to fight with another animal.
The offense of cruelty to animals does not apply to conduct that constitutes a generally accepted and lawful use of an animal, such as fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife control, or animal husbandry.
The word “animal” is defined as a domesticated creature or a wild creature that was previously captured. The word “animal” does not include an uncaptured wild animal. The words “in a cruel manner” are defined as causing unjustified and unwarranted pain or suffering to an animal.
A person who is charged with the offense of cruelty to animals may claim as a defense that his or her actions were part of a bona fide scientific experiment or that the animal was killing or injuring the person's own animals or livestock. The person may also claim as a defense that he or she was protecting himself or herself, his or her family, or his or her property.
The offense of cruelty to animals is normally punished as a misdemeanor. However, if a person has previously been convicted of the offense, the offense may be punished as a felony.
A person commits a separate offense if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly attacks a service animal or an assistance animal. A service animal or an assistance animal is an animal that is trained to assist a disabled person. This offense is normally punished as a misdemeanor. If the service animal or the assistance animal is injured or killed, the offense may be punished as a felony.
In the event that there is probable cause to believe that an animal is being treated in a manner that is proscribed by either of these offenses, the animal may be seized under a warrant. If the animal is seized, its owner is entitled to a hearing within a certain number of days. The animal is normally not returned to its owner if the owner is found guilty of either of these offenses.
Copyright 2014 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.