Some people may not know that cruelty to animals is an offense the State of Florida takes seriously. Several laws are in place that protect pets like cats and dogs, and domesticated livestock such as cows, chickens, and pigs. At times, people may unintentionally become the target of animal cruelty charges. Animal rights groups or neighbors might not understand the effort required to control or maintain animals, which may cause some owners to find themselves facing cruelty charges even though there was no criminal intent or negligence involved.
Animal cruelty may be a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony offense in the State of Florida. The consequences a person may face upon a conviction for animal cruelty include jail time, a fine, and possibly an anger management course.
What Constitutes Animal Cruelty in Florida?
Under , committing cruelty against animals is a crime. There are two different degrees of this charge in Florida which are a misdemeanor and a felony. Generally, a one-time event is viewed as a misdemeanor offense, but a felony charge indicates an ongoing situation of cruelty.
New legislation called has made it even easier for judges to give serious jail time to those convicted of felony level animal cruelty and prevents repeat offenders from owning pets.
Examples of animal cruelty are:
- Torturing the animal
- Causing purposeful injury
- Fighting games
- Transporting in a cruel manner
Also, a court considers if the alleged abuse was justified in the situation it occurred. This allows for circumstances where treatment of the animal in an inhumane manner might have been necessary, for example a dog attack. Further, a person may be charged with multiple counts of cruelty if the court finds that he committed separate acts of cruelty.
Types of Animal Cruelty Charges
The State of Florida can bring misdemeanor or felony charges against a defendant accused of animal cruelty. The specific charge you face depends entirely on the circumstances of your case.
Misdemeanor Animal Cruelty
Animal cruelty of the first degree is a misdemeanor offense punishable by:
- Up to a year in jail
- Pay a fine of up to $5,000
Those who face a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge allegedly either directly committed abusive acts towards an animal or witnessed others doing so and did nothing to prevent it. More severe instances of animal cruelty may receive a more serious charge.
Aggravated Animal Cruelty
Depending on your case, the prosecution may bring a charge of aggravated animal cruelty. Aggravated animal cruelty requires the defendant to have intentionally committed an act to an animal which results in its cruel death. The charge may also be brought against those who have committed excessive cruel acts or who have committed cruel acts upon animals repeatedly. A person who witnesses such acts and fails to prevent them may also face
Aggravated animal cruelty is a third-degree felony offense in Florida. A conviction for this offense carries significantly stiffer penalties than the lesser misdemeanor charge. According to , those who are convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals may be sentenced to:
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Pay a fine of up to $10,000
- Possible psychological counseling or anger management
If the court finds that the abuse was intentional, you may be ordered to pay a minimum fine of $2,500 and may possibly be ordered to pay up to $10,000, and serve up to 5 years in prison. You may also be ordered to attend psychological counseling and/or an anger management program. Subsequent charges of aggravated animal cruelty will lead to increased minimum fines and incarceration.
Reputable Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been charged with animal cruelty, it is best to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Building a strong defense before your case goes before a judge is critical to get a more favorable outcome. When choosing an attorney, be sure they have previous practice in this type of law so that you are adequately represented.
The Umansky Law Firm works diligently with our clients to fight charges and get the second chances they deserve. Our attorneys are former prosecutors who use their knowledge and experience with the court system to your advantage. With our over 100 years of combined experience, you don’t need to put your future and freedom at risk! Contact us today at (407) 228-3838 to have your case evaluated for free.