In recent years, the North Carolina legislature has strengthened the animal cruelty statutes. Some actions construed to be cruelty to animals that were previously misdemeanors have now become felonies.
Misdemeanor Cruelty to Animals
To be charged with a misdemeanor under the NC animal cruelty statute, a person must intentionally overwork, wound, injure, torment, kill or deprive the animal of necessary food, water, shelter or care. Alternatively, a person can be guilty of this statute if they cause any of things things to happen by another person or they get another person to do those things on their behalf.
Felony Animal Cruelty
A person that maliciously kills or causes an animal to be killed by intentional acts such as:
- Maliciously depriving the animal of necessary sustenance such as food or water
- Maliciously torturing, mutilating, maiming, beating, disfiguring
- Maliciously poisoning
- Maliciously killing
If a person does any of the things listed above he will be charged with a Class H felony.
The words “torture” and “torment” include or refer to any act that causes unjustifiable pain, suffering or death. “Intentionally” refers to an act committed knowingly and without a justifiable excuse. “Maliciously” means it is an act that it committed intentionally and with malice or a bad motive. Based on these definitions, intentional animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, but animal cruelty that is intentional AND malicious is a felony.
An animal cruelty conviction can result in jail time, significant fines and a felony or misdemeanor on your criminal record, which can impact employment, financial aid, and housing. If you’ve been charged with a cruelty animals crime, contact an experienced animal cruelty lawyer for a consultation.