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Texas Animal Cruelty Laws

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Texas Animal Cruelty Laws

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Animal Cruelty Laws in Texas

Many residents of Texas are proud to be responsible animal owners. Whether they own household pets, like dogs and cats, or livestock, the vast majority of these animal owners take good care of their four-legged friends. However, sometimes cases arise involving animal owners who mistreat or neglect the creatures under their care. When this happens, law enforcement may get involved.

Animal cruelty and neglect are serious crimes in the state of Texas. No matter what kind of animals a person may own, the law states that animals must be provided with a basic level of care. Failure to abide by these laws may lead to arrest and criminal prosecution.

Defining Animal Cruelty

The Texas Health and Safety code defines animals as any living, nonhuman creature. However, animal cruelty laws do not necessarily apply to every living animal. For the most part, animal cruelty laws in Texas apply to domesticated animals, which fall into two main groups:

  • Livestock animals
  • Non-livestock animals

Livestock animals are those which are kept for the purposes of raising, selling or producing food. This covers most animals which are farmed, including cows, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs.

Non-livestock animals are usually defined as those which are kept as pets. This includes dogs, cats, rodents and reptiles.

Generally speaking, animal cruelty laws do not apply to wild animals that are not usually found in a domestic setting. This can include wild animals such as deer, stray cats and dogs or wolves.

Animal cruelty is defined as an instance of cruel treatment which is performed intentionally, recklessly or knowingly. Examples of cruel treatment can include:

  • Starving an animal
  • Keeping an animal in an enclosure that is too small
  • Beating or striking an animal
  • Neglecting or abandoning an animal
  • Overworking an animal

It is also a crime to intentionally or recklessly fail to provide shelter to an animal. In addition, all types of animal fighting are illegal, including cockfighting and dog fighting.

Legal Punishments

A person who is reported to the authorities on suspicion of animal cruelty can be investigated by law enforcement. If signs of animal cruelty are discovered, the owner may be placed under arrest and charged. In addition, their animals may be seized and, if they are convicted, they may be prohibited from owning animals in the future.

Intentionally or recklessly abandoning an animal, failing to give an animal food or water and seriously overworking an animal may be punished with:

  • Conviction on a Class A misdemeanor charge
  • Incarceration in county jail for up to one year
  • A fine of up to $4000

Intentionally killing, seriously injuring or torturing an animal may be punished with:

  • Conviction on a state jail felony charge
  • Incarceration in prison from 180 days up to two years
  • A fine of up to $10,000

A person who has three convictions for failing to care for an animal may have their charge upgraded to a state jail felony. A person who has three convictions for intentionally harming or injuring an animal may have their charge upgraded to a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

Animal Cruelty Charges

The key component of the burden of proof in animal cruelty cases is the intent of the defendant. The prosecution may introduce evidence to try to show that the animal owner or caretaker intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engaged in behavior that caused the animals to come to harm.

A defense attorney may be able to counter these claims by arguing that the defendant’s actions were accidental or unintentional. Also, a defense attorney may try to argue that the animals were harmed as the result of the actions of a person other than the defendant. Either way, hiring a defense attorney is the first step towards creating a legal defense in animal cruelty cases. A conviction for animal cruelty can seriously damage a defendant’s reputation and it may jeopardize their future rights.

Hiring a defense attorney may result in the charges being dropped or reduced to a less severe penalty category.

Have you been charged with animal cruelty in Texas? Attorney Greg Tsioros can help protect your rights. To get the help you need, call his office today at 832-752-5972.

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