In Virginia, some acts of animal cruelty are a misdemeanor and others are a felony. If you’ve been charged with an animal cruelty crime, then it is essential to understand the charges that you face, the potential consequences of a conviction, and how to get help with your defense.
Animal Cruelty Misdemeanors
Virginia Code §3.2-6570 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to:
- Override, overdrive, overload, mistreat or abandon an animal
- Torture any animal
- Willfully inflict inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation on any animal
- Cruelly or unnecessarily beat, maim, mutilate, or kill any animal
- Deprive any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter, or emergency veterinary treatment
- Sore any equine for any purpose or administer drugs s to alter or mask soring for the purpose of sale, show, or exhibition unless the medication is prescribed by a veterinarian solely for therapeutic purposes
- Rope, lasso, or otherwise obstruct or interfere with the legs of an equine to intentionally cause it to trip or fall in a rodeo, contest, exhibition, or for entertainment or sport, unless the action is within the practice of accepted animal husbandry or to get the animal veterinary care
- Willfully engage in or further any act of animal cruelty
- Carry an animal in a vehicle or vessel in a cruel, brutal, or inhumane manner to torture the animal or cause unnecessary suffering
- Kill a domestic cat or dog to obtain its hide, fur, or pelt (first offense)
If you are found to have taken any of these actions against any animal, including an animal you own, or if you permitted any of these things to be done to an animal that you own, then you may be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
If you are convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor, then you could face:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- A fine of up to $2,500
At the court’s discretion, you could also be required to:
- Attend an anger management or other treatment program
- Obtain psychiatric or psychological counseling at your own expense
Additionally, the court may prohibit you from having or owning a pet.
Animal Cruelty Felonies
On July 1, 2019, a new law went into effect in Virginia. The new law expanded animal cruelty felonies to include cruelty to a dog or cat, even if the dog or cat lives. Some specific acts of animal cruelty are included in both the misdemeanor and felony sections of the law. Your particular charges should always be discussed with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Under current Virginia law, it is a Class 6 felony if you are convicted of any of the misdemeanor crimes listed above twice within five years, if either violation resulted in the death of an animal or the euthanasia of an animal based on the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian.
If you are convicted of a Class 6 felony, then you face a potential sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. The court may also prohibit you from having or owning a pet.
Contact an Animal Cruelty Defense Lawyer
Not every case of alleged animal cruelty is what it seems. You may have a legitimate defense to the charges against you, and our experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers are here to help you. We will consider all possible defenses, advise you of your legal rights, and work hard to get a just outcome in your case.
Please call us or fill out our contact form to begin learning more about your possible defense today.