Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal. Either way, and whether the animal is a pet, a farm animal or wildlife, the victim can suffer terribly and perpetrators should be prosecuted. In recent months, changes have been made to legislation in an effort to protect animals the same way that we do humans. At least 24 states have felony charges for animal neglect and/or abuse. Since 2006, notable progress has been made across the states:

  • Ten jurisdictions added – for the first time – felony penalties for cases involving extreme animal cruelty and/or torture: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah
  • Ten Jurisdiction strengthened their existing felony animal cruelty laws:  Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island
  • Sixteen Jurisdictions added felonies for repeated or aggravated animal neglect: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and Tennessee
  • Eight Jurisdictions made repeated abandonment or abandonment that results in the death or serious injury of an animal, a felony: Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and Puerto Rico
  • Five Jurisdictions added felonies for the sexual assault of an animal: Alaska, New Jersey, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Tennessee
  • Twenty-One Jurisdictions instituted statewide bans on breed-specific legislation (or “BSL”) by either prohibiting municipalities from regulating or outlawing certain dogs based on breed alone, or otherwise require proof of a dog’s supposed dangerous propensities beyond mere breed: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

Alabama ALA.
CODE Section 13A-11-14 (1977)

The act of cruelty to animals, particularly domesticated dogs and cats, is defined as: “Overloads, overdrives, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, injures, mutilates or causes the same to be done; intentionally tortures any dog or cat or skins a domestic dog or cat or offers for sale or exchange or offers to buy to exchange the fur, hide, or pelt of a domestic dog or cat.” Cruelty to a dog or cat is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 6 months. Intentionally torturing a dog or cat is a Class C Felony punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment up to 10 years. Person convicted could also be made to pay for the cost of care of the animal. Exceptions are made for research, protection of life or property, training, or shooting a dog or cat for urinating or defecating on property. Animals can also be seized by animal control officers.