Are Animal Cruelty Cases Handled as Felonies in New Jersey?

While animals may not be afforded the same rights and freedom as humans, they still enjoy considerable protection under the law. If you violate New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws, you could be subject to fines, community service, imprisonment, restitution, and possibly have your pet seized. Animal cruelty is a serious criminal offense. If you have been accused of animal cruelty, it’s in your best interest to contact a trusted Bergen County Criminal Defense Attorney who can effectively defend your rights to avoid the harsh penalties associated with this crime.

What is Considered Animal Cruelty in New Jersey?

Animal cruelty laws in New Jersey make it a crime to treat or abuse animals in the following ways:

  • Abuse and neglect: This includes torturing, maiming, poisoning, and beating an anime, either intentionally or recklessly. In addition, you will face serious legal ramifications if you needlessly kill an animal by failing to provide necessary care or leave it alone where it may be harmed (such as leaving the animal alone in a hot vehicle).
  • Abandonment: It is illegal to desert an animal you no longer want, whether sick or injured.
  • Leaving a domestic animal outside: In New Jersey, pet owners are prohibited from exposing their animals to harsh weather conditions, such as freezing temperatures, excessive heat, rain, or snow, for more than thirty minutes.
  • Tethering: It is unlawful for any person to chain, tie up, or restrain your dog cruelly. You cannot tie up your dog with a chain or rope shorter than 15 feet, and you cannot tie it up in a manner that can cause it to become tangled or strangled.
  • Inadequate shelter: If you have a pet, you must ensure that it is provided with adequate shelter. An animal must have a proper shelter in harsh weather for over thirty minutes. This shelter must be soundly built and provide the animal with adequate ventilation, clean water, light, and space to move around. It is illegal to confine the animal in a structure, room, area, or container that is not a proper shelter.
  • Animal fighting: It is a third-degree crime to participate, arrange, witness, gamble, or assist with animal fighting or baiting.

What Are the Potential Penalties?

In New Jersey, animal cruelty can be a disorderly person offense (a misdemeanor in other states) or an indictable crime of the third or fourth degree (a felony in other states). The severity of your penalties for animal cruelty will vary depending on the nature of your conduct, the extent of the animal’s injuries, and whether you have had a previous conviction for similar behavior.

If an animal is tormented, maimed, poisoned, necessarily or cruelly beaten, or needlessly mutilated, it’s considered a fourth-degree crime. A fourth-degree animal cruelty or abuse charge can result in up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If an animal is cruelly killed or dies as the result of a violation of animal cruelty laws, or the caretaker has a prior conviction for a violation of similar behavior, it will be considered a third-degree crime. A third-degree animal cruelty charge is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

If you’ve been charged with animal cruelty in New Jersey, please don’t hesitate to contact a determined attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can advise you on the best legal strategy to achieve the best possible outcome.