Animal Cruelty and Neglect

Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty may involve the following intentional conduct (though each state may have differing laws on what constitutes animal cruelty):

  • Animal fighting (dog fighting, cock fighting, hog-dog fighting)
  • Bestiality (sexual assault)
  • Physical harm or killing (beating, burning, choking, hitting, kicking, mutilating, poisoning, shooting, stabbing, torturing)
  • Targeting the pet for physical harm in order to coerce humans into silence or compliance of their own abuse.

Some state laws exempt these activities from animal cruelty laws:

  • Animals in research
  • Euthanasia practices
  • Farming practices
  • Hunting and trapping
  • Pest control
  • Rodeos

As of 2011, all but three states (Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota) have passed felony animal cruelty laws thus giving greater resources to prosecutors to effectively handle these cases.

Animal Neglect

Animal neglect may involve the following conduct (though each state may have differing laws on what constitutes animal neglect):

  • Abandonment without proper food, water and shelter (this includes “foreclosure pets” who are abandoned in foreclosed homes)
  • Failure to provide proper food, water and shelter
  • Failing to provide medical care
  • Hoarding
  • Puppy Mills
  • Starvation
  • Tethering a dog outside without proper care

All states have passed laws to prevent various forms of neglect. However, animal neglect cases can be challenging to identify, investigate and prosecute. Additional issues arise in mass animal neglect cases, such as hoarding or puppy mills, and a concern as to housing and caring for the animals when resources are limited.

Difficulties with Animal Abuse Cases

Animal cruelty and neglect cases can be some of the most complex cases that investigators and prosecutors handle. Some of the reasons include: (1) there is no victim to give a statement or testify; (2) proving intent requires the gathering and arguing of circumstantial evidence; (3) scientific and forensic evidence is often required to prove the manner and cause of injuries and/or death; (4) large-scale seizure of animals (from an animal fighting enterprise, puppy mill, or hoarding situation) results in financial burdens on communities that may be required to house the animals as “evidence”; (5) opinions regarding animals and the laws that protect them can be difficult to address in jury trials; and (6) community response to animal abuse cases is often strong resulting in an outpouring of support (or criticism) to investigators and prosecutors who are confined by the laws protecting animals. Expert staff with NCPAA, ASPCA and its Advisory Group will provide the tools and resources to help prosecutors and allied professionals overcome these issues.

National District Attorneys Association
1400 Crystal Drive, Suite 330
Arlington, VA 22202

Contact Us