There are various terms surrounding cases where animals are the subject of injuries or mistreatment. For example, animal cruelty is the inhumane treatment of an animal whether it’s a pet or livestock. Animal abuse happens when an animal is physically harmed or neglected on purpose. Including criminal acts such as torture or poisoning.
Animal neglect, also called animal abandonment, is a type of animal cruelty. The neglect occurs when an individual doesn’t provide adequate care for the animal, or animals, in their care. Animal neglect cases can range from minor to very severe; they are generally more common than instances of animal cruelty or abuse. Some cases may involve combinations of animal neglect and animal cruelty or abuse.
What Type of Animal Can Be Neglected?
Various types of animals can be the subject of an animal neglect case. The neglected animal may be:
- A person’s pet;
- Farm animal;
- Animals being held in captivity;
- Animals being used for scientific research; and/or
- Animals that are sold in stores.
Animals that are commonly subject to neglect include dogs, cats, birds, lizards, and smaller mammals such as hamsters and mice.
However, larger farm animals can also be victims of neglect, as the cost and upkeep can be too high for most people to afford. They are also harder to dispose, so there are many reported cases of cows and horses locked in barns with hopes that they will simply perish and no one will notice.
What is Considered Animal Neglect?
Animal neglect can include wide range of conduct. This includes:
- Not providing the animal with proper water and food;
- Not providing veterinary care;
- Not providing shelter;
- Not providing socialization;
- Keeping an animal in a cage or living areas that are too small;
- Chaining a pet for long periods of time;
- Overworking an animal; and/or
- Leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle.
The type and degree of neglect can depend on many different factors. Thus, each animal neglect case can be different from the next. Some common factors that can influence the case may include:
- The type of animal involved;
- Whether the person responsible for the animal had any special training;
- The location where the animal was kept; and/or
- The origin of the animal.
Even if a person did not intend to neglect their pet, they can still be charged with animal neglect. Animal neglect includes the deliberate abuse of an animal or the failure to take care of the animal.
Keep in mind that what constitutes animal neglect can vary from state to state, or even county to county. It also depends on how strictly they are enforced. Many states ban pet owners putting pets in the back of the car or a truck without securing them in a proper crate. However, it is often up to law enforcement to ticket and fine the owner.
Some laws can seem rather vague, that may punish owners for putting their pets in a harmful situation for a long period of time, which would prohibit owners from leaving their pet in the car or leaving them outside if it snows.
What are the Consequences of Animal Neglect?
Animal neglect is sometimes considered a “wobbler” in some states. This means that it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony charge, depending on the severity of the case. If tried as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face up to a year in jail and some criminal fines. If tried as a felony, the person may face over a year in a state prison facility (often up to five years), and heavier criminal fines.
Penalties may be compounded if multiple instances or multiple counts of animal neglect are involved in the case. In some cases, if the neglect was truly unintentional, authorities may try to help the owner correct the situation. Neglect of an exotic animal may also lead to additional criminal penalties, as possession of an exotic animal is generally illegal in the first place.
Additional consequences of animal neglect can include:
- Having the animal or animals permanently removed from the person’s care;
- Paying any costs associated with the animal’s housing from the time of the seizure of the animal up until conviction; and/or
- Additional penalties if the neglect involved the use of dangerous or deadly weapons.
Lastly, some activities such as dog fighting or animal fighting may be considered animal neglect or cruelty, but may also be subject to their own separate laws and legal penalties (oftentimes more severe than simple animal neglect charges).
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Animal Neglect Case?
Animal neglect cases can be complex and may involve various other legal concepts. You should contact a criminal lawyer if you are facing an animal neglect charge. A lawyer will advise you of your rights and how to proceed with the case. The criminal lawyer may also work to reduce or eliminate the neglect charge.