Criminal Charges For Animal Cruelty

Tennessee’s anti-cruelty laws define an "animal" as a domesticated living creature or wild creature previously captured.  Most commonly, a person charged with the offense of cruelty to animals can be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by spending no more than 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.  In more severe cases, a person found guilty of animal cruelty is subject to a Class E Felony and can spend anywhere from 1 to 6 years in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Currently, all 50 states have felony provisions within their animal cruelty laws.  Before 1986, only four states had felony animal cruelty laws: Massachusetts (1804), Oklahoma (1887), Rhode Island (1896), and Michigan (1931).

Cruelty to Animals (Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-202)

According to this statute, a person commits an offense who (1) intentionally tortures, maims, or grossly overworks an animal; (2) fails unreasonably to provide food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody; (3) abandons unreasonably; (4) confines or transports an animal in a cruel way; or (5) inflicts burns, cuts, lacerations, or other injuries or pain, by any method, including blistering compounds to the legs or hoofs of horses.  Also according to this statute, a person commits an offense who knowingly ties, tethers, or restrains a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury as defined in § 39-11-106.

An offense under this section is a Class A Misdemeanor.  A second or subsequent conviction for cruelty to animals is considered a Class E Felony, regardless of whether either or both convictions involved livestock

Cock and Animal Fighting (Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-203)

According to this statute, it is unlawful for any person to (1) own, possess, keep, use, or train any bull, bear, dog, cock, swine, or any other animal for the purpose of fighting, baiting, or injuring another animal; (2) to cause for amusement, sport, or gain, any animal to fight, bait, or injure another animal or each other (3) permit any acts stated above, 1 and 2, to be done on any premises, or aid or abet those acts; or (4) be knowingly present as a spectator at any place where preparations are being made for fighting, baiting, or injuring any animal, with the intent to be present at the exhibition.

Most offenses under this section are a Class E felony.  A spectator at a dog fight can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.  An offense involving a cock is a Class A misdemeanor.

Tennessee is only one of a few states with no felony penalties for cockfighting.  Tennessee was able to fight efforts to enact an Ag-Gag law in 2013.  "Ag-Gag" laws are an attempt to censor investigators and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Intentional Killing of Animal(Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-205)

This statute says that it is an offense to knowingly and unlawfully kill the animal of another without the owner’s consent commits theft of that animal and shall be punished under § 39-14-105 – Grading of theft.  The value of a police dog includes both value of the dog and any specialized training.

Sexual Activity Involving an Animal (Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-214)

According to this statute, a person commits an offense who knowingly (1) engages in any sexual activity with an animal; (2) Causes, aids, or abets another person to engage in any sexual activity with an animal; (3) permits any sexual activity with an animal to be conducted on his or her premise; (4) engages in, organizes, promotes, conducts, advertises, aids abets, participates in as an observer, or performs any service in the furtherance of an act involving any sexual activity with an animal for commercial or recreational use; or (5) photographs or films a person engaged in a sexual activity with an animal for purpose of sexual gratification.

Any violation of this section is considered a Class E felony.  In addition, the court may order a convicted person to do the following: not own animals or love where animals are present, attend counseling, and/or reimburse the animal shelter or humane society for costs incurred as a result of conduct described in this section.

If you have been charged with or are being investigated for any of the above-referenced offenses, please contact the Knoxville Tennessee cruelty to animals criminal defense attorneys at The McKellar Law Firm today at 865-566-0125.

Contact Our Firm

If you've been accused of mistreating an animal and are facing criminal charges, talk to the lawyers at McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law. We have experience handling a variety of criminal cases and know the right defense strategies to protect your rights and future freedoms.

To schedule a free initial telephone consultation with one of the lawyers at McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, call 865-566-0125 or send us an email. We accept credit cards.