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What Does the Law Say About Animal Cruelty in Pennsylvania?

January 24, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Animal cruelty is now a federal offense, but two teenagers in Pennsylvania are facing state charges after they posted a video depicting them injuring a deer they had shot, but not killed.

One of the defendants named in the case was age 18, and another was an unidentified 17-year-old boy. It was the 17-year-old that shot the white-tailed deer while hunting on property owned by the 18-year-old’s parents. The deer fell, but was not fatally shot. The boys continued to stomp on it and kick it, all while videotaping the incident. They later posted the incident to social media, which prompted several complaints to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and eventually, charges of animal cruelty.

Pennsylvania has many laws against animal cruelty and now, the two boys both face felony charges.

Levels of Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty in the state can be charged as either a summary, misdemeanor, or felony offense, depending on the level of cruelty. When an animal is abandoned, abused, mistreated, beaten, or recklessly overloaded, it is generally considered a summary offense. Although the least severe of all charges, a conviction can still result in a maximum fine of $750, 90 days in jail, or both.

If the types of abuse described above result in injury to the animal, or places the animal in immediate danger of serious injury, the charge is upgraded to a misdemeanor. Any time a person knowingly tortures an animal, felony charges will be laid. Penalties for the crime increase according to the level of animal cruelty. In many cases, a judge will order a convicted defendant to surrender an animal that has been mistreated.

Neglect of an Animal

Any person that owns an animal is also expected to provide for its basic needs. This means providing food as necessary, and suitable drinking water. It also includes providing clean shelter away from outdoor elements so they can maintain a normal body temperature and remain dry. When a person fails to provide any of these things, they can face animal cruelty charges. Failing to provide adequate veterinary care is also considered neglect of an animal.

Pets in Vehicles

Pennsylvania does not have any laws that specifically address leaving pets in vehicles, even though there are many news stories every year about the issue. However, a pet owner that places their animal at risk by leaving them in a vehicle may face charges of animal neglect.

It is important to understand that even though people may have good intentions, no one is allowed to break a window or damage a vehicle in order to help a pet inside. Only certain officials, such as law enforcement officers and animal control officers, have the authority to take these measures.

Have You Been Charged? Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help

The above outlines just a few of the many state laws Pennsylvania has outlined regarding animal cruelty. If you have been charged with these or any other, call our Allentown criminal defense lawyers today. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our attorneys have the necessary experience to craft a strong defense for your case and give you the best chances of beating the charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 to schedule your free consultation.



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