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Home 9 Violent Crimes 9 What You Need to Know about Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Definition and Penalties

What You Need to Know about Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Definition and Penalties

A cat with glasses holding money with scales of justice and a criminal law book nearby.

For a long time, humankind considered pets and other animals beneath them. However, as evident by the enactment of animal cruelty laws across the nation, this is no longer the case. But when you are facing accusations of cruelty to animals in Lancaster, PA, it can be an incredibly distressing experience, leaving you overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain about your future. The complexities of Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws, which encompass everything from neglect to animal fighting, can make navigating such charges feel like an insurmountable task.

If a person faces animal cruelty charges in Pennsylvania, it is essential that he or she understands what those charges entail and the possible penalties for various offenses. The Pennsylvania SPCA details what acts constitute animal cruelty in the state. These allegations can tarnish your reputation and disrupt your personal and professional life.

However, turning to an experienced criminal law attorney, like the one at Marinaro Law Firm, can be a transformative step toward resolution. With over 30 years of expertise and a robust background in forensic science, Attorney Marinaro is equipped to fight vigorously for your rights, helping to alleviate your anxieties and restore your peace of mind.

What Is Considered Animal Cruelty in Pennsylvania?

The PA SPCA has jurisdiction in Philadelphia and 22 counties throughout the state, including Lancaster County. Per the organization, the following offenses are grounds for animal cruelty charges:

  • Animal neglect, which includes failure to provide food, water, clean and sanitary shelter, and necessary veterinary care
  • Animal cruelty, which entails intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly mistreating, beating, abusing, overloading, torturing, or abandoning an animal
  • Transporting an animal in a cruel manner
  • Animal mutilation and similar offenses
  • Leaving a dog tethered and unattended for more than 9 hours in a 24-hour period and without access to shade or water or tethered for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Animal fighting or possession of animal fighting paraphernalia
  • Abusing or taunting police animals

These laws are designed to protect all animals, whether they are pets, livestock, or wildlife. A conviction pertaining to any one of the aforementioned offenses could result in severe consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and a permanent criminal record. Understanding the scope of what constitutes Pennsylvania animal cruelty is crucial for anyone facing such charges, as it can significantly impact your defense strategy and the potential outcomes of your case.

Who Investigates Animal Cruelty in Pennsylvania?

A police K9 team walk back to their car in a run-down part of town.

In Pennsylvania, several agencies are responsible for investigating animal cruelty allegations. Primarily, local law enforcement agencies, such as the police or sheriff’s department, take the lead in these investigations. Additionally, animal control officers and humane society police officers play a critical role. These specialized officers are often affiliated with local animal shelters or humane societies and have the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws.

The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) is another key organization involved in investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty cases. These agencies work collaboratively to ensure thorough investigations and to bring perpetrators to justice. Understanding who investigates these matters is essential, as these authorities are well-versed in the intricacies of Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws and are committed to protecting the welfare of animals.

What Are the Penalties for Cruelty to Animals?

According to NBC Philadelphia, former Governor Tom Wolf increased the penalties for animal abuse and cruelty from summary to high-level offenses back in 2017. In some cases, though, a person commits a summary offense for animal neglect that can result in up to 90 days in jail or a $300 fine.

However, suppose the neglect causes the animal bodily harm or puts the animal at risk of harm. In that case, the offense is elevated to a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.

Cruelty is a second-degree misdemeanor that may result in a punishment of up to two years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Aggravated cruelty, which occurs when a person kills, maims, or disfigures an animal, is a third-degree felony. If convicted, an offender faces up to seven years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine.

Repeat offenders or those involved in particularly egregious acts, such as cruelly transporting animals, mutilation, and related offenses, may face even more stringent penalties.

What Is the Long-Term Impact of an Animal Cruelty Conviction?

An animal cruelty conviction can have far-reaching, long-term impacts that extend well beyond immediate legal penalties. A sentence can severely damage your reputation, making it difficult to secure employment or maintain professional relationships. The stigma associated with cruelty to animals is profound, often leading to social ostracism and strained personal relationships.

Additionally, a criminal record can limit your future opportunities, affecting your ability to obtain housing, loans, and even specific licenses. If the conviction involves a felony, the consequences are even more severe, potentially stripping you of fundamental rights such as voting or owning a firearm. The emotional toll of living with a conviction can also result in chronic stress and anxiety. Understanding these long-term impacts underscores the importance of mounting a robust defense to protect not just your present but your future as well.

What Is the PA Act 119 Dog Law?

Outdoor dog kennels outside a building.

PA Act 119, also known as the Dog Law, addresses the welfare and treatment of dogs in Pennsylvania. This legislation sets forth specific requirements for dog owners and kennel operators, including the provision of adequate shelter, food, and veterinary care. Act 119 also outlines stringent regulations for the operation of kennels, mandating regular inspections and compliance with state standards to ensure humane conditions.

The Act includes provisions to protect dogs from abuse and neglect, such as someone who recklessly illtreats, overloads, or beats a dog, and it establishes penalties for non-compliance. Violations can result in fines, kennel license revocation, and even criminal charges in severe cases.

Understanding PA Act 119 is vital for dog owners and kennel operators, as adherence to this law is essential for the welfare of dogs and for avoiding legal repercussions. The Act serves as a cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s commitment to animal welfare, reflecting the state’s dedication to protecting its canine population.

Is Animal Cruelty a Felony in Pennsylvania?

Yes, animal cruelty can be classified as a felony in Pennsylvania, depending on the severity of the offense. Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws categorize offenses into different grades, ranging from summary offenses to felonies. Severe acts of cruelty, such as intentional torture, maiming, or killing of animals, are classified as felony offenses.

Specifically, aggravated cruelty to animals is considered a felony of the third degree, which carries severe penalties, including substantial fines and significant prison time. Felony convictions come with long-lasting consequences, impacting various aspects of an individual’s life, from employment opportunities to personal relationships.

Facing Pennsylvania Animal Cruelty Charges? Schedule Your Legal Consultation Today!

If you are facing animal cruelty charges in Pennsylvania, the stakes are incredibly high. The legal complexities and severe penalties associated with these charges make it imperative to have a skilled criminal law attorney on your side.

Marinaro Law Firm offers over 30 years of experience and a strong background in forensic science, positioning us as a formidable ally in your legal battle. Our expertise can help you navigate the intricacies of Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws, develop a robust defense strategy, and strive for the best possible outcome.

Don’t let these charges upend your life and tarnish your reputation. Take the first step towards resolution and peace of mind by scheduling a legal consultation today. By acting promptly, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you are entirely prepared to face your charges head-on.


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