Animal Cruelty Is Now a Federal Offense

It has long been a cardinal rule of novelists and screen writers that whatever you do, never, ever kill a dog. Our society’s connection with animals, whether as a pet, companion, service animal or, in many cases, as a family member, is deep and lasting.

animal cruelty federal criminal defense attorney in raleighIn the context of criminal cases, there are few cases that strike a nerve in our collective consciousness as deep and powerful as cases involving animal cruelty. These cases are often covered extensively by the media as evidenced by recent stories out of Orange County printed in the News and Observer, one regarding dog fighting, and the other a case of 57 dogs seized from one property

Because of the visceral reaction the public has to crimes of animal cruelty, both state and federal governments are taking stronger stands. For those charged with, or suspected of, animal cruelty, it’s essential to contact a Raleigh criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to improve the outcome of your case. 

Proposed Animal Cruelty Registration for Convicted Offenders 

WRAL has recently reported that two state senators have proposed new legislation that would establish an animal cruelty registry. This registry would, in effect, put those convicted of animal cruelty in the same category as sex offenders.

If the law passes, the Department of Public Safety will launch a registry to include full names, photographs, addresses, and the conviction. First-time offenders would remain on the registry for two years, and subsequent offenses would be a five year listing on the registry. 

If this law were in place now, there are currently more than 100 pending cases in North Carolina that would qualify for the convicted’s name being added to the registry.  

Current Penalties for Animal Cruelty Crimes

North Carolina, like all other states, has already made animal cruelty against the law. The animal cruelty laws are found in Chapter 14; Article 47 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Specifically, the laws state that a person shall be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor if they intentionally overdrive, overload, wound, injure, torment, kill or starve an animal. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail. 

In more severe cases, including ones in which a person is charged with intentional starving, torturing, or killing an animal, they can be charged with a Class H felony. Additionally, instigating, conducting, promoting, is employed by, or offers property to be used for dog fighting is also punishable as a Class H felony. A Class H felony carries a penalty of up to 30 months in jail and up to 9 months of post-release supervision. 

Under this statute, it’s considered an intentional action when a person acts knowingly without justifiable excuse. A person acts maliciously when the act is committed intentionally with malice or bad motive.

Animal Cruelty As a Federal Crime 

In addition to the state increasing the penalties of animal cruelty, the federal government can now bring charges, too. Using cases like those in here in North Carolina as a backdrop, the House unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act.

As reported by the Washington Post, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act would outlaw “purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement or other violence causing ‘serious bodily injury’ to animals.” Up until now, federal jurisdiction over animal cruelty only extended to cases involving animal fighting or the making or sharing of videos that depict the types of actions the PACT act would cover.

While this law is currently being reviewed by the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, it is expected to come to a vote. If the federal law is passed by the Senate and signed into law as expected, an individual convicted of felony federal animal cruelty could now receive up to seven years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 

Contact Our Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys for Charges of Animal Abuse 

At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, our team of federal criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh can offer expert legal counsel and aggressive criminal defense to help you with your case. Federal charges are much more serious than state or local crimes – they are more complex and carry stricter penalties. 

If you are charged with a federal crime of animal cruelty under the PACT Act, we can help you achieve a better outcome for your case. Call us today at (919) 845-6688 to schedule a free consultation or fill out our contact form to get started!