Animal abuse is a federal and state crime in Texas, and criminal charges 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 Texas law regarding animal cruelty, the possible defenses available to you, and what steps to take if you’re accused in McAllen, Texas.
Texas Animal Cruelty Law
Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal. The law defines animal cruelty as any action or neglect that causes unnecessary pain or suffering.
Animal cruelty is a felony in Texas and punishable for up to 10 years in prison, with a fine of up to $10,000. Children who have committed animal cruelty are required to go to counseling. Neglect is a misdemeanor until the third offense, when it becomes a felony, according to USAToday.
The criminal law only applies to domestic animals, such as house pets, livestock, and wild animals “subject to a person’s care and control,” according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Animals in the circus, in labs for testing, and wild animals are excluded.
Under Texas law, animal cruelty includes:
- Torturing an animal
- Failing to provide food, care or shelter
- Abandoning an animal
- Transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner
- Killing, seriously injuring or poisoning an animal
- Causing an animal to fight with another
- Using a live animal as a lure in a dog race
- Tripping a horse
- Injuring an animal belonging to another person
- Seriously overworking an animal
To help avoid accusations of animal cruelty, remember that it’s illegal in Texas 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.
- Treat a Domestic Animal in a Cruel Manner. According to Nolo, “cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering
- Participate in Animal Fights. In Texas, it’s a felony to be involved in cockfighting or dogfighting – including attending or betting on the fights, or participating in the earnings or operation of a dog or cockfighting facility, according to SPCA.
Legal Consequences in Texas
In Texas, two types of laws protect animals from cruelty: civil laws and criminal laws. The laws are similar but differ in the penalties they impose.
In a civil case, if a judge rules that a person or people have been cruel to animals, the judge may take away their animals and/or order them to pay restitution.
If prosecuted in a criminal case, a person may face penalties including fines, jail or both. If the accused person is under the age of 18, they might be required to undergo counseling if convicted of animal cruelty.
If more than one animal is involved, animal cruelty charges can multiply quickly. It’s important to get a criminal defense attorney involved as soon as possible to avoid conviction.
Compared to other states, Texas’ animal cruelty statutes are very narrow in scope because they exclude certain types of animals from protection from animal cruelty laws.
According to AnimalLaw, Texas laws allow for some possible defenses to animal cruelty charges, including:
- Some situations where a person killed someone else’s animal if the animal was discovered on another’s property and was found killing or injuring another domestic animal.
- Sometimes, tripping a horse is allowed if done for identification purposes or for veterinary care purposes.
- In some situations, a person may kill an animal if they fear bodily injury to themselves or another person.
What To Do Next
Sometimes animal cruelty charges affect honest and kind owners who, through a series of unforeseeable circumstances, have ended up neglecting or abandoning an animal. Animal cruelty charges can result from accidental negligence or a psychological issue. A criminal defense attorney can help you tell your side of the story. An attorney can help explain the circumstances that resulted in the animal’s situation, and also present character witnesses who have seen you care for the animal in the past.
Why risk the life-long legal consequences of a criminal conviction? The Tijerina Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused in the McAllen, Texas area. If you’re facing criminal accusations or criminal charges, we can help you get your charges reduced or dropped! Get started with a free consultation! Call (956) 261-5609 or send a message online.
4016 N. 22nd Street
McAllen, Texas 78504
Phone: (956) 261-5609
Phone: (512) 900-1126