In many homes, people treat animals like members of the family. This may consist of taking them on family vacations, including them in family portraits and providing them with every known luxury. On the other hand, while many households include the presence of an animal, or even several, not every animal owner treats those animals lovingly or even humanely.
As animals continue to be an integral part of society, laws to protect them increase, and those laws often include heavy penalties for the mistreatment and abuse of animals. If someone has accused you of mistreating an animal, you may be rightfully concerned about the consequences you may face.
Common examples of animal abuse
California statutes protect animals from people who purposely and maliciously abuse them, even to the point of death. These animals may include birds, reptiles or fish, in addition to dogs, cats and other mammals. When you hear of abuse, you may think it means striking or beating an animal. However, in the eyes of the law, abusing an animal may include many other actions, for example:
- Overloading or overworking an animal
- Riding an animal that is unfit to bear the load
- Causing an animal to endure cruelty
- Obtaining an animal for the purpose of committing cruel acts
- Intentionally injuring or killing an animal that is endangered or protected
Depriving an animal of food, water or shelter is a common reason why people face accusations of cruelty. For example, a neighbor may see your pet in your back yard and assume it has nothing to eat or drink. Another example may be leaving your pet in a car while you run into a store. If someone calls authorities, you may suddenly be under a microscope for committing cruel acts against an animal.
The penalties for animal abuse
Abusing an animal is often a felony charge under California law. This means you may face severe penalties if you are convicted of purposely injuring or killing an animal. Among those penalties, you may face imprisonment and fines as high as $20,000.
Even if authorities charge you with a misdemeanor, you may spend a year in prison and pay exorbitant fines if convicted. In some situations, the court may waive jail time in exchange for probation and counseling for behavior disorders at your own expense, if you have the means to pay.
The consequences of a conviction for animal cruelty can be severe and long-lasting. Facing these accusations with a strong defense strategy may result in a more favorable outcome.