Dog abuse occurs when a person intentionally abuses or neglects their pet dog. State law definitions of dog and animal abuse may vary, but they generally cover a wide range of actions and conduct towards one’s pet. Such laws cover both physical abuse of a dog (such as striking, hitting, maiming, etc.) as well as acts of neglect.

Dog abuse crimes may apply to a wide range of persons, including dog owners, pet shop operators, veterinarians and veterinary assistants, and other persons.

What Are some Examples of Dog Abuse?

Some common examples of physical dog abuse include:

  • Training a dog for, or subjecting a dog to dog fighting activities
  • Torturing a pet dog
  • Wounding a dog
  • Punishing a dog very harshly with physical force
  • Leaving a dog with the intent that it gets injured or dies
  • Killing a dog ("putting it down" without proper veterinary processes)
  • Overworking a labor dog

Examples of neglect of a dog include:

  • Leaving a dog in a place that is too hot or cold or without adequate ventilation (such as unattended in a vehicle)
  • Going on vacation or leaving home without making proper arrangements for the dog’s food, water, and cleanliness
  • Failing to feed a dog properly; intentionally starving a dog
  • Keeping many dogs in a space that is too small
  • Feeding a dog substances that are not suitable for eating/drinking

Animal cruelty laws can often apply to animals that the person does not own, not just those that are kept as pets. For instance, a person may face criminal charges for the abuse of a stray dog or other similar animal.

Are There Any Penalties for Dog Abuse Crimes?

Dog abuse can result in criminal charges. Depending on state laws, dog abuse can result in either felony or misdemeanor charges. Felony charges are reserved for more serious cases (such as those involving the serious injury or death of a dog).

Felonies are punishable through higher criminal fines and longer prison sentences (greater than one year). Less serious cases may result in misdemeanor charges (punishable by lower fines and shorter sentences). Criminal defenses may apply depending on the facts involved in the case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Dog Abuse Charges?

Dog abuse is a serious offense and can lead to some very strict criminal penalties. It may be in your best interests to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you need any type of legal assistance with dog abuse laws. Your attorney can provide you with legal representation, advice, and guidance for various types of dog abuse cases. Also, if you have any specific questions or issues, your attorney can address those as well.