Civil and Criminal Prosecution of Animal Abuse: How can we stop Animal Abuse?

By Attorney Jennifer L. Davis

For most, our animals are treated just like children.  They are beloved members of our family.  Unfortunately, not everyone treats their animals in such a away.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, the most common victims of animal abuse are dogs, cats, horses, and livestock.  Additionally, research has shown there is a strong correlation between abuse of animals and domestic violence or hoarding.  As domestic violence is on the rise so is animal abuse.  Additionally, hoarding has become a huge problem.  Statistics show that hoarders don’t just hoard items but that can include animals. 

Section 828.12 of the Florida Statutes, provides for both misdemeanor and felony offenses for Cruelty to Animals.  Penalties range from 1 year of Probation to 5 years in Prison.  Additionally, if multiple acts of cruelty are alleged, the offenses can be charged separately and therefore each count could carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in Prison.

In addition to the criminal penalties, Section 828.073 provides for Civil penalties wherein animals believed to be in distress may be confiscated by law enforcement, governmental agencies, and animal rescue agencies.  Owners found to have violated this Statute can be stripped of their right to own animals in the future.

Friends, neighbors and even our Associations, we can assist in the fight against Animal Abuse.  If you suspect neglect or abuse, don’t turn your back or let someone else handle it.  Call law enforcement, or if you can no longer care for your pet, please consider surrendering your pet to a rescue group.  There are even some breed specific rescue groups. These rescue groups will take care of the pet medically and find a good home for your pet.  If you would like names of local rescue groups, please call our Director of Public Relations.   We can make a difference.  The animals need a voice, we need to advocate for the animals.  Please do your part.