Texas Animal Cruelty and Negligence

Texas takes our furry friend’s welfare seriously. Most residents here are responsible animal owners, whether they have pets or livestock. However, sometimes, some individuals fail to provide proper care or mistreat their animals, which can lead to legal involvement.

Animal cruelty and neglect are significant legal concerns in Texas. The law requires a basic standard of care for all animals, regardless of species. Failure to follow these regulations may result in arrests and criminal charges.

Animal Cruelty Explained

In the Texas Health and Safety Code, the law defines animals as living creatures that aren’t humans. But not every living creature is covered by animal cruelty rules. These rules mostly protect domesticated animals.

Texas animal cruelty laws primarily apply to two categories:

  • Livestock Animals: These are animals raised, sold, or used for agricultural or food production purposes. Examples include cows, sheep, horses, poultry, and pigs.
  • Non-Livestock Animals: This category includes animals typically kept as pets, such as dogs, cats, rodents (like hamsters or mice), and reptiles (like snakes or turtles).

Typically, animal cruelty laws don’t apply to wild animals you wouldn’t keep as pets. So, animals like deer, feral cats and dogs, or wolves usually aren’t protected by these laws.

Livestock vs. Non-Livestock Animals

In Texas, animal cruelty encompasses actions such as causing harm, abandoning, neglecting, or transporting animals in an unsafe condition.

What Qualifies as Animal Cruelty to Livestock Animals?

In accordance to Texas Penal Code 42.09, it’s illegal to mistreat livestock animals intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly and this includes:

Felony Acts

  • Causing severe harm to an animal
  • Using poison on an animal without the owner’s permission
  • Forcing fights with another animal (e.g., dog fighting, cock fighting)
  • Using live animals to lure dogs for racing
  • Intentionally causing a horse to trip and fall

Misdemeanor Acts

  • Failing to provide adequate food, water, care, or proper shelter
  • Abandoning an animal
  • Treating an animal poorly during transport or in an unfair manner
  • Overworking a livestock animal

What Does Animal Cruelty to Non-livestock Mean?

The Texas Penal Code 42.092 makes it against the rules for a person to do these things intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly to a non-livestock animal:

Felony Acts

  • Causing severe harm or torture an animal
  • Taking the life of an animal in a cruel manner
  • Inflicting significant bodily injury to an animal in a cruel manner
  • Using poison, causing death, or causing severe injury to an animal without the owner’s consent
  • Instigating animal fights
  • Using a live animal to entice dogs to race

Misdemeanor Acts

  • Neglecting to provide adequate care for an animal under one’s care
  • Unreasonably abandoning an animal for which one is responsible
  • Transporting or confining an animal in an inhumane manner
  • Inflicting bodily injury on an animal without the owner’s consent
  • Overworks an animal

Brief History of the Penalty for Animal Cruelty in Texas

House Bill 653 and Senate Bill 1724, commonly known as “Loco’s Law” were passed on September 1, 2001. They introduced felony charges for animal abuse in Texas. The law earned its name from a puppy named Loco, who suffered intentional eye injuries.

Animal abuse was not considered a criminal in Texas until Loco’s Law was put into effect. Currently, charges for animal cruelty convictions can be misdemeanors or felonies.

Penalty for Animal Cruelty in Texas

Class A Misdemeanor

Offenses resulting in bodily injury or death to a non-livestock animal. Punishable by up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

State Jail Felony

In cases of cruelty involving multiple animals or severe suffering. Carrying a penalty of 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Third-Degree Felony

If an offender has a previous animal cruelty conviction or if the cruelty results in the animal’s death, Punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

Potential Legal Defenses

Texas has more limited animal cruelty laws compared to some other states. These laws don’t apply to every animal species.

According to AnimalLaw, in Texas, there are certain defenses that can be used in animal cruelty cases. These defenses include:

  1. If someone kills another person’s animal that’s found on their property and is attacking or hurting another domestic animal.
  2. At times, it’s acceptable to trip a horse for identification or medical reasons.
  3. In some cases, a person can euthanize an animal if they fear harm to themselves or others.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Animal cruelty accusations can sometimes impact caring and well-meaning pet owners. Any person can commit an offense when something unexpected makes it hard for them to take care of their animals. Sometimes, it’s not on purpose, but it could be because they’re going through a tough time or facing mental health challenges.

If you find yourself facing these charges, a criminal defense lawyer who deals with these cases can help you share your side of the story. They can explain the reasons behind what happened to your animal, bring in people who know you, and talk about how you’ve looked after your pet in the past.