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Animal Cruelty Offense and Laws

animal-cruelty-law-awarenessAnimal cruelty, sometimes called animal abuse or neglect, involves human infliction of suffering or harm to an animal. Animal cruelty laws define activities which are deemed illegal and may also provide sentencing guidelines in the event that someone is convicted of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty laws are put in place to define conditions that are deemed unsafe or cruel to animals. If animals are confined in spaces smaller than those outlined in the law, their keepers will be subject to penalties. Other animal cruelty laws can cover things like working conditions for working animals, such as carriage horses and racing greyhounds.

Animal cruelty laws tend to provide more aggressive protections for pets and companion animals such as horses, cats, and dogs, in contrast with animals raised for food like cows, pigs, and chickens. Under the law, people who abuse or neglect animals can be subject to fines, jail time, and community service. Animal cruelty laws are put in place to help confiscate animals in abusive situations, allowing animal welfare organizations and agencies to intervene in cruelty cases.

Types of Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing.


Having an animal carries a certain responsibility. Failing to provide an animal with the necessities of life (food, water, shelter) is illegal.

Malicious Cruelty

Intentional cruelty involves knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.

Animal Hoarding

Animal hoarding is keeping a higher-than-usual number of animals as domestic pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them.

A person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domesticated animal at a location without providing for that animal’s continued care. Animal abandonment is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.


Debarking is a surgery performed on dogs that removes their ability to bark loudly. The procedure, which cuts into the vocal cords while the dog is under general anesthesia, is fairly simple and rarely has complications. Yet many believe that debarking dogs is not only unnecessary but also inhumane, that it does not fix underlying problems causing the dog to bark, and that it is simply cruel to take away the ability of a dog to vocalize.

People usually opt for debarking dogs when the animals chronically or habitually bark. A loud barking animal can certainly be a nuisance to owners and neighbors, especially if the problem is consistent. It is quite easy to see why frustrated owners search for a way to silence their noisy pooch permanently, especially if the animal does not respond to behavioral training or tends to bark constantly when left alone.

Florida Definition of Animal Cruelty and Penalties

Animal cruelty and its related offenses are governed by Chapter 828 of the Florida Statutes. Specifically, cruelty to animals is defined by Fla. Stat. § 828.12. This law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor under Fla. Stat. § 828.12(1) to unnecessarily overload, overdrive, torment, deprive of necessary food or shelter, unnecessarily mutilate, or unnecessarily kill or unnecessarily cause to be killed, or otherwise treats any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner. First-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Animal cruelty becomes a third-degree felony under Fla. Stat. § 828.12(2) when a person intentionally commits any act or causes an act to be committed on any animal that results in the excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering or cruel death of the animal. Third-degree felony animal cruelty has a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison. If it is determined that any animal cruelty violation included the knowing and intentional torture or torment of the animal that resulted in the injury, mutilation, or death of the animal, the mandatory minimum fine for the offense will be $2,500 and the offender will be required to undergo counseling or complete anger management.

Subsequent animal cruelty violations are subject to a mandatory minimum $5,000 fine and six months in prison, as well as the obligation to serve his or her entire prison sentence without being eligible for any type of probation, parole, or release program. It is considered a separate third-degree felony animal cruelty offense punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine to intentionally trip, fell, rope, or lasso the legs of a horse for sport or entertainment purposes.

Veterinarians are generally exempt from civil or criminal justice regarding alleged animal cruelty that occurred during and as a regular part of the normal and reasonable practice of medicine. No matter the circumstances of your animal cruelty case in Palm Beach County, the services of an experienced West Palm Beach animal cruelty defense lawyer are highly recommended to protect your rights and your future from the penalties and stigma resulting from conviction.

Florida Animal Care and Control agencies are dubious for trying to use their under educated and poorly trained officers as “experts” in the area of animal cruelty cases. As a criminal defense lawyer, defending those accused of animal cruelty crimes, I am always on the lookout for those animal care and control officers who write reports that state opinions based on their findings because such officers are not experts and are not listed as such pursuant to the rules. Therefore, such opinions are not worth a bag full of dog hair. Florida law specifically states under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220(b)(1)(A)(i) that an “expert witness” requires that the state disclose “expert witnesses who have not provided a written report and a curriculum vitae or who are going to testify.” It is not enough to list such witnesses as Category “A” witnesses or just a lay witness; the state is also required to indicate that the witness will testify as an expert. Lay witnesses or category “A” witnesses cannot testify as experts in the State of Florida unless the witness is properly designated as a category C witness and the witness meets the requirements set forth under Florida law to testify as to opinion. Veterinarians may be qualified as an expert witness under animal cruelty cases, if they meet the standards, but surely not an Animal Care and Control Officer with little schooling and no medical training should ever qualify as an expert witness in the court of law. Having a seasoned and well educated criminal defense lawyer, trial and appellate as well, on your side when you are facing criminal animal cruelty charges in the State of Florida is the difference between being victorious and losing.

West Palm Beach Animal Cruelty Defense Attorney

Few law firms in Florida have as much experience-or as much success-defending people charged with animal cruelty or neglect, as the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A. in West Palm Beach. Andrew Stine has handled some of the biggest animal cases in Florida and has never lost a case.

Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Examples of animal cases include:

Animal cruelty involving dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, sugar gliders, and parakeets that were malnourished, poorly maintained, or abused Dog-fighting cases involving pit bulls and Cock-fighting cases.

In Florida, animal cruelty can be charged as anything from a civil infraction up to a felony. Those charges, as well as fines, add up when a person is charged with cruelty or neglect to a group of animals. Lawyer Andrew Stine won a test Florida case that established if a person is charged with animal neglect of a group of animals (such as 100 dogs or 25 horses), the person can only be charged with one crime. This strategy has been used and implemented throughout the entire State of Florida to prohibit the State from over prosecuting those who have been arrested with animal cruelty cases. This experience has dubbed Attorney Andrew D Stine the number one animal cruelty lawyer in Florida!

Animal Cruelty Defense

Defense in animal cases usually involves a thorough investigation and expert testimony from veterinarians and other animal owners as to what the community standard is for taking care of animals. At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., we go beyond this basic defense strategy to help our clients avoid fines and other costs associated with the crime. West Palm’s premium and Florida’s best Animal Cruelty Attorney has successfully defended the biggest animal cruelty cases throughout the State of Florida and is here to serve you if needed.

Our law firm has an exceptional track record of getting many animal cruelty charges dismissed prior to trial and preventing charges from being filed at all. Andrew Stine is also experienced in clearing arrest records through the expungement process. If your record has been cleared and you are asked on a job application or apartment lease if you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you can confidently answer, “no.” Hire Stine or do the Time.

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