Being accused of animal cruelty should not be taken lightly. Without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, your charges could turn into convictions with serious consequences. Keep reading to understand Florida law regarding animal cruelty, the possible defenses available to you, and what steps to take if you’re accused in Naples, Florida.
Florida Animal Cruelty Law
According to Lawyers.com, Florida makes it a crime to abuse animals in various ways, including:
- tormenting, unnecessarily mutilating, or killing an animal
- not giving an animal proper food, drink, or shelter,
- transporting an animal in a cruel and inhumane way.
The law defines animal cruelty as any action or neglect that causes unnecessary pain or suffering.
To help avoid accusations of animal cruelty, remember that it’s illegal in Florida to:
- Abandon Pets. This includes leaving a sick or maimed animal to die, leaving an animal to suffer injury or malnutrition, and abandoning an animal without proper care, food, water, protection, or shelter in a street or public place.
- Confine Pets. When people confine animals, they must provide enough “good and wholesome” food and water, a change of air, and room to exercise. A violation of these requirements is a misdemeanor. Florida is one of a handful of states that allow Good Samaritans to break into locked cars to rescue pets in distress.
- Injure, Kill, or Interfere with Service Animals. It’s a misdemeanor in Florida to injure, kill, or interfere with a service animal, or to allow a dog in your control to do so. The crime is a felony if the animal was hurt or killed intentionally. In addition to criminal penalties, the guilty person must pay full restitution for the consequences, including vet and boarding expenses, the costs of replacing the animal and training a new one, and lost wages while the person didn’t have the animal’s help.
- Participating in Animal Fights. In Florida, it’s a felony to be involved in any kind of animal fighting or baiting, including attending or betting on the fights.
Legal Consequences in Florida
Depending on the specific charges you are accused of, you may face anywhere from a $50 fine for a civil infraction or a $10,000 fine and years of prison for a felony. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight accusations of animal abuse and keep you out of jail.
Generally, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, but it’s a third-degree felony if the action (or failure to act) was intentional and resulted in a cruel death or excessive, repeated, and unnecessary pain or suffering. Anyone guilty of intentionally injuring, mutilating, or killing an animal will have to go to psychological counseling or anger management treatment in addition to paying a fine. Repeat offenses and more serious types of cruelty can lead to jail time.
According to Lawyers.com, enforcement officers, animal control officers, or a local humane society may take custody of any abused or neglected animal. The owner will be entitled to a hearing, where the court will decide if the owner is fit to regain custody.
Exceptions are also typically provided for legal activities such as:
- Scientific research (under certain standards)
- Hunting and fishing,
- Animal husbandry.
What To Do Next
Animal cruelty charges can result from accidental negligence or a psychological issue. Sometimes animal cruelty charges affect honest and kind owners who, through a series of unforeseeable circumstances, have ended up neglecting or abandoning their beloved pet. In these situations, you risk not only losing a member of your family, but also being put behind bars. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight these consequences by not only detailing the circumstances that resulted in the pet’s situation, but also presenting character witnesses who have seen you care for the animal in the past.
If the animal cruelty charge definitely points to you and it cannot be reasonably explained, a dedicated criminal attorney may work to get you psychiatric help, rather than incarceration.
When more than one animal has been victimized, you may receive more than one count of animal cruelty. These crimes may add up quickly, leaving you with very lengthy sentences and very expensive fines. The Law Offices of Michael M. Raheb have helped defend many past clients from animal cruelty accusations. You deserve the same excellence in legal assistance! Why take the risk of life-long consequences?
2423 First Street,
Fort Myers FL 33901
Fax Number: 866-949-0888