Nearly 500 German Shepherds were recently rescued from two Georgia properties. The animals are believed to be part of a puppy mill. Conditions at the properties included deep mud and lack of adequate food. As a result, the owner of the properties is being charged with animal cruelty.
What Constitutes Cruelty and Neglect?
Georgia code is clear on the topic of animal cruelty. Owners or others who knowingly cause harm to animals may be charged with cruelty. Specific acts of cruelty listed in Georgia law include:
- Withholding food or water to the degree that the animal risks starvation or dehydration
- Providing unsanitary living conditions
- Failing to provide adequate ventilation
- Causing pain, suffering, or death
Aggravated animal cruelty charges are more severe and based primarily on allegations of malicious intent when the accused:
- Causes an animal’s death;
- Causes physical harm by removing, disabling, or disfiguring a portion of the animal’s body;
- Tortures the animal by causing severe or prolonged pain;
- Exposes the animal to poison; and/or
- Fails to provide food, water, sanitary conditions, and/or ventilation.
There are some notable exceptions to these laws, though. Fish and pests, such as mice or roaches, are not included under the category of “animals.” The law also specifically states that animal cruelty laws do not prohibit professions dealing with animals, such as farming and pest control, or certain recreations, such as hunting and fishing. Finally, the law allows for injuring or killing animals if for the purpose of reasonably defending persons, property, or other animals.
Penalties for Animal Cruelty or Neglect
While Georgia code is specific in terms of what constitutes animal cruelty, it allows for a wide range of punishments for the offense. Sentencing is largely dependent on any previous convictions as well as the discretion of the judge.
The first offense of animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000, a maximum jail sentence of one year, or both. The sentencing judge is allowed significant leeway in sentencing, with no minimums required. Time may even be served only during non-working hours, at the judge’s discretion. It is, therefore, essential to have expert counsel by your side, even if convicted.
Any subsequent convictions for animal cruelty will be considered misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature. In this case, the maximum fine increases to $5,000, though the maximum jail term remains at one year. As in a misdemeanor, one or both of the penalties can be applied. Although sentencing is still at the judge’s discretion, there are fewer allowances made for high and aggravated misdemeanors.
Aggravated animal cruelty is a felony offense. If convicted, punishment may include a prison sentence of between one and five years, a maximum $15,000 fine, or both. Any subsequent convictions for aggravated animal cruelty may bring imprisonment for up to 10 years, fines up to $100,000, or both.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Do not face charges of animal cruelty alone. Let the attorneys at Lankford & Moore Law help you build an effective defense today. Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you are facing criminal charges for animal cruelty or other types of crimes.