What is Animal Cruelty in DC?

what is animal cruelty in DC

So what is Animal Cruelty in the District of Columbia.   Animal Cruelty in the District of Columbia is defined as a any person that tortures, torments, deprives of food and water, cruelly chains, cruelly beats or mutilates, any animal, while that person has custody of the animal.   The DC Code explicitly defines the Cruelly chaining an animal as that anything that attaches to an animal to a stationary object.  This includes devices such as chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or similar restraint under circumstances that may endanger its health, safety, or well-being of the animal.    The rope, chain, leash, cable etc can not:

  • Exceeds 1/8 the body weight of the animal;
  • Causes the animal to choke;
  • Is too short for the animal to move around or for the animal to urinate or defecate in a separate area from the area where it must eat, drink, or lie down;
  • Is situated where it can become entangled;
  • Does not permit the animal access to food, water, shade, dry ground, or shelter; or
  • Does not permit the animal to escape harm.

Is Animal Cruelty in DC a Misdemeanor or Felony?

Animal Cruelty is a misdemeanor unless there is a “serious bodily injury” of the animal.   Serious bodily injury is defined for purposes of animal cruelty as injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, mutilation, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part or organ.  It includes but not limited to broken bones, burns, internal injuries, severe malnutrition, severe lacerations or abrasions, and injuries resulting from untreated medical conditions.


What is the maximum penalty for Animal Cruelty

  • The maximum penalty for misdemeanor animal cruelty is 180 days in jail or fine not exceeding $250, or by both.
  • The maximum penalty for felony animal cruelty is 5 years, or a fine not exceeding $25,000, or both

What if I was just watching a friend's animal and I am charged?

You are still responsible even if you are just watching your friend’s animal because the law in DC states “having the charge or custody of any animal.”  It does not require that you are the owner of the animal; and therefore even if just animal sitting you can still be charged if there is a violation.   

What can the Judge do if I am convicted of Animal Cruelty?

The Court may

  • Require you to obtain psychological counseling, psychiatric or psychological evaluation, or to participate in an animal cruelty prevention or education program, and may impose the costs of the program or counseling;
  • To forfeit any rights in the animal or animals subjected to cruelty;
  • Require you to pay any medical expenses of the animal subjected to cruelty; and
  • Require you not to own or possess an animal for a specified period of time.

What should I do if I am Charged with Animal Cruelty?

If you are charged with Animal Cruelty you need to hire an experienced Criminal Lawyer in Washington, DC  Animal Cruelty is a serious charge in Washington, DC because the citizens of Washington, DC love their pets and so you need an effective advocate that resolve your matter with best possible resolution.