What constitutes animal cruelty, and what are the charges?

In Missouri and other states, deliberately and maliciously neglecting, harming or killing an animal is considered a crime. Unless you are lawfully hunting game, you can face serious consequences if your actions result in the death or injury of an animal. The penalties may include fines and prison time.

The Office of the Missouri Attorney General states that animal abuse is considered a misdemeanor in the state. However, you could face felony charges if you had a previous conviction or pled guilty for animal abuse. Those who deliberately torture or mutilate animals can also face felony charges.

Even if you would never harm an animal on purpose, you could face charges based on false accusations by others. For example, someone may report you for neglecting your dog if they see your dog running around your yard on a cold day – even if you just let your pet outside for a few minutes to go to the bathroom and get some exercise. People may also misconstrue legitimate training techniques as animal abuse and make a false report. In other cases, a neighbor with a grudge against another neighbor could decide to make up a fake claim about animal abuse out of spite.

As you can imagine, you may find it challenging to defend yourself against a charge of animal abuse. However, you have the right to a fair defense, regardless of the circumstances. The content in this blog is meant for educational purposes and should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

FindLaw Network