Cruelty to Animals

Have you Been Charged with Cruelty to Animals in Georgia?

Americans love our pets and treat them like family. We get very upset when people abuse their animals. Georgia law criminalizes cruelty to animals, and the negative connotations associated with a cruelty to animals charge can be overwhelming. Our offices understand that a charge is not the same as a conviction and we can assure you we are only here to help and not judge you. You need a team of Georgia Cruelty to Animals Attorneys to fight this charge so don't waste any time in contacting our office today. The team of Georgia Animal Lawyers at Lawson and Berry are here to help.

Georgia Law on Cruelty to Animals

O.C.G.A. §16-12-4 states a person will be guilty of cruelty to animals when they:

  • Cause physical pain, suffering, or death to any animal by any unjustifiable act or omission; or
  • Intentionally exercise custody, control, possession, or ownership of an animal and fail to provide to such animal adequate food, water, sanitary conditions, or ventilation that is consistent with what a reasonable person of ordinary knowledge would believe is the normal requirement and feeding habit for such animal's size, species, breed, age, and physical condition.

Aggravated Cruelty to Animals

A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she:

  • Maliciously causes the death of an animal;
  • Maliciously causes physical harm to an animal by depriving it of a member of its body, by rendering a part of such animal's body useless, or by seriously disfiguring such animal's body or a member thereof;
  • Maliciously tortures an animal by the infliction of or subjection to severe or prolonged physical pain;
  • Maliciously administers poison to an animal, or exposes an animal to any poisonous substance, with the intent that the substance be taken or swallowed by the animal; or
  • Intentionally exercise custody, control, possession, or ownership of an animal and fail to provide to such animal adequate food, water, sanitary conditions, or ventilation that is consistent with what a reasonable person of ordinary knowledge would believe is the normal requirement and feeding habit for such animal's size, species, breed, age, and physical condition to the extent that the death of such animal results or a member of its body is rendered useless or is seriously disfigured.

Georgia Case Law

Cruelty to animals can occur in a number of different ways. Some examples of cruelty to animals include:

  • A pet store owner was convicted of cruelty to animals when they abandoned the animals. Some of the animals died from lack of nourishment and others had to be put to death because of their severe malnourishment. Smith v. State, 160 Ga. App. 26, (1981).
  • Cruelty to animals was justified where the defendant was using his property to host cockfighting. Morgan v. State, 195 Ga. App. 52, (1990). However, another person was found guilty of cruelty to animals when he aided and encouraged a cockfight. Chaney v. State, 232 Ga. App. 297, (1998).
  • A defendant was found guilty of cruelty to animals when witnesses heard a dog yelping and saw it running away from the accused, who had a gun in his hand. They found the dog with a gunshot wound in his ear and therefore there was sufficient evidence to convict under the statute. Willis v. State, 201 Ga. App. 182, (1991).
  • The evidence showed that the accused was responsible for taking care of and feeding horses and they had been neglected and were suffering. Therefore, the accused was convicted of cruelty to animals. Tiller v. State, 218 Ga. App. 418, (1995).
  • A man was convicted of cruelty to animals when the evidence showed he owned 16 pit bulls and one boxer that were living in his backyard in 30-degree weather, with inadequate shelter, and with more than one inch of water and mud covering the yard. Stephens v. State, 247 Ga. App. 843, (2003).

When is Cruelty to Animals Justified?

A person will be warranted in injuring or killing an animal when they reasonably believe that such action is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of injury or damage to any person, other animal, or property.

With regard to the killing, Georgia law states that the method used for killing the animal must be as humane as is possible under the circumstances. If a person humanely kills an animal under one of these conditions, then they will not be criminally liable for the death of the animal.

Penalty for Cruelty to Dogs in Georgia

A person convicted of cruelty to animals will be guilty of a misdemeanor. However, a second conviction of cruelty to animals will result in a conviction of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. The penalty for a misdemeanor in Georgia is up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

A person convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be guilty of a felony with a felony of prison between one and five years, a fine of no more than $15,000, or both. A second or subsequent conviction of aggravated cruelty to animals will result in a lengthened prison term between one and ten years and a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

Defenses

Defense of Others or Property: If you killed the animal in order to protect your property, yourself, or another from being injured by the animal, then that is an appropriate defense. However, the killing must have been as humane as possible under the circumstances.

Defense of Livestock or Pet Animal: If an animal was attacking your livestock, poultry, or pets, then you have the right to defend your property and can legally kill the animal. 

What are Not Defenses

There was no malice, willfulness, or intent to kill the animal. Malice, willfulness, and intent are not elements of the crime of cruelty to animals. Therefore, even if there was no malice or intent or willfulness, a person can still be convicted. Miller v. State, 179 Ga. App. 217, (1986).

There was not a real threat to property or themselves. If the animal appeared friendly and was not trying to harm anyone or your property, then you do not have the right to hurt or kill the animal.

The animal did not die. Even cruel acts that can harm an animal fall under the statute. The animal does not have to die for a person to be convicted of cruelty to animals.

Contact Us

Although a misdemeanor conviction may seem inconsequential, spending time in jail or paying fines will have an impact on your life. It is still important that you retain representation to help you fight the charges and try to either get the jail time or fine lowered. If you have any questions feel free to contact our offices. The Attorneys at Lawson and Berry are here for you.

Contact Us Today for Immediate Help

The time is now to start preparing your defense! Many times people lose the opportunity to put on their best defense because they wait. The importance of hiring a lawyer from the very beginning cannot be overstated! Waiting allows for witnesses to leave the area, evidence to be lost, and memories to fade. All of these have a direct effect on the successful on your case. The time to begin your case and start prepping your defense is now! Contact us today to put on your best Georgia criminal defense!

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