Understanding Your Rights

Crimes Related to Animals: What to Know

Almost any crime related to animals can be disturbing. Some offenders may even be charged with felonies. Read on to find out about several common types of animal crime charges and what they might mean to the offender.


When an owner moves away and leaves behind an animal, it's considered animal abandonment. The reasons for leaving an animal behind vary widely. Sometimes, the owner is too ill to care for their pet or must be hospitalized. Some families are forced to make an unplanned move when they are evicted or face foreclosure. Also in this category is leaving an animal, particularly puppies and kittens, alongside a road or outside of businesses.


Animals are owed a standard level of care that includes feeding, water, and medical care when needed. In some cases, neglect involves not a single incident but a period of extended lack of care. Puppy mills may be found practicing neglect on a large scale along with farms and those who hoard animals. Leaving a pet in a hot car can also be considered neglect. Some states and municipalities make it a crime to leave an animal chained outside in inclement weather or for long periods of time.

Organized Fighting 

Animals can be raised and trained to fight each other for entertainment purposes. Dog-fighting and cock fighting are two of the most common forms practiced in the US. Along with this crime are connected crimes like gambling, money laundering, and more.


When the lack of care is purposeful and intentional, it may be abuse. Any type of physical abuse of an animal is covered by this category. The acts range from cruel childhood pranks to torturing animals for pleasure or entertainment.


Any sexual act with an animal can be placed into this category. However, it's not illegal in all states.

Defenses to Animal Crimes

In some cases, those charged with one of the above crimes are innocent. In other cases, the incident can be explained. A single charge of neglect, for example, might be dropped if the offender agrees to undergo counseling and educational training classes. However, repeated cases can be tougher on the offender. Some states won't charge owners who did not know about the law or who were unable to comply with a law because of financial constraints.

Being arrested for one of the above forms of animal abuse can be a shock. You may be innocent, or you might not have meant for anything bad to happen to an animal. It's important that you speak to a criminal defense lawyer about your case. Jailtime and very high fines can result if you are convicted of an animal crime.