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What is Animal Cruelty in Texas?

Animal cruelty is the criminal offense of torturing, abandoning, failing to provide for, or transporting an animal in an unsafe manner. Animal cruelty is prohibited in two different sections in Texas. First, Penal Code 42.09 prohibits cruelty to livestock animals. Second, Penal Code 49.092 prohibits cruelty to non-livestock animals. Livestock animals are those which are kept for the purposes of raising, selling or producing food. Non-livestock animals are usually defined as those which are kept as pets.

What is Cruelty to Livestock Animals?

Penal Code 42.09 prohibits intentional or knowing abusive behavior towards livestock including:

  • Torturing an animal
  • Failing to provide a reasonable amount of food, water, care and shelter to an animal
  • Abandoning an animal.
  • Transporting or confining an animal in an unreasonable or cruel way
  • Poisons an animal without the owner’s consent
  • Causing an animal to engage in a fight with another animal
  • Using a live animal as a lure in a dog race
  • Tripping a horse
  • Seriously overworking the livestock animal.

The offenses in bold are Class A misdemeanors. The offenses that are not in bold are State Jail Felonies.

What is Cruelty to a Non-livestock Animal?

Penal Code 42.092 prohibits a person from intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

  • torturing an animal
  • in a cruel manner killing an animal
  • causing serious bodily injury to an animal
  • poisoning the animal without the owner’s consent
  • failing to provide reasonable care to an animal in the person’s custody
  • unreasonably abandons an animal in the person’s custody
  • transports or confines the animal in a cruel manner
  • causes bodily injury to the animal without the owner’s consent
  • causes one animal to fight with another
  • uses a live animal as a lure in a dog race
  • seriously overworks the animal.

The offenses in bold are Class A misdemeanors. The offenses that are not in bold are State Jail Felonies.

Is it Illegal to Leave a Dog in a Car in Texas?

dog in car

Can you leave a dog in a parked car?

It is illegal to confine a non-livestock animal in a cruel manner. It is also illegal to fail to provide reasonable care to an animal in a person’s custody. Both of these are Class A misdemeanors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can climb between 130 to 172 degrees Fahrenheit. The question of whether reasonable care was provided or whether the animal was confined in a cruel manner will be one for a judge or jury to decide, but it would be hard to find a judge or jury that would take this type of an allegation lightly.

How long is the punishment for animal cruelty in Texas?

The offense will either be filed as a Class A misdemeanor or a State Jail Felony. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $4,000 fine. State Jail Felonies are punishable from six months in State Jail to two years in State Jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly failing to provide a reasonable amount of food, water, care and shelter; abandons an animal; transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner; causing bodily injury to an animal; or seriously overworking an animal is a Class A misdemeanor.

Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly torturing; killing, poisoning, fighting, or using an live animal as a lure is a State Jail Felony.

Animal Cruelty Defense

We have handled animal cruelty cases in Texas both as prosecutors and as defense attorneys. We understand how strongly judges, juries, and prosecutors feel about these allegations. There are some statutory defenses to animal cruelty, although they are not the only defenses that can be raised.

Pursuant to Penal Code Section 49.092, defenses that apply to animal cruelty include:

  • The animal is killed in self-defense;
  • The animal is killed or injured upon discovering the animal injuring or killing the person’s livestock or damaging the person’s crops;
  • The conduct occurs for legal hunting or agriculture practices; or
  • The conduct occurs for true scientific research.

Contact Us

Call us at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Lawyers are here to help. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

You can also contact us online:

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CRUELTY TO LIVESTOCK ANIMALS

(a)  A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

(1)  tortures a livestock animal;

(2)  fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, or care for a livestock animal in the person’s custody;

(3)  abandons unreasonably a livestock animal in the person’s custody;

(4)  transports or confines a livestock animal in a cruel and unusual manner;

(5)  administers poison to a livestock animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner’s effective consent;

(6)  causes one livestock animal to fight with another livestock animal or with an animal as defined by Section 42.092;

(7)  uses a live livestock animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack;

(8)  trips a horse; or

(9)  seriously overworks a livestock animal.

(b)  In this section:

(1)  “Abandon” includes abandoning a livestock animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.

(2)   “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits  unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.

(3)  “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of a livestock animal subject to the person’s care and control, regardless of ownership of the livestock animal.

(4)  “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.

(5)  “Livestock animal” means:

(A)  cattle, sheep, swine, goats, ratites, or poultry commonly raised for human consumption;

(B)  a horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny;

(C)  native or nonnative hoofstock raised under agriculture practices; or

(D)  native or nonnative fowl commonly raised under agricultural practices.

(6)  “Necessary food, water, or care” includes food, water, or care provided to the extent required to maintain the livestock animal in a state of good health.

(7)  “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(8)  “Trip” means to use an object to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance.

(c)  An offense under Subsection (a)(2), (3), (4), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092.  An offense under Subsection (a)(1), (5), (6), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092.

(d)  It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(8) that the actor tripped the horse for the purpose of identifying the ownership of the horse or giving veterinary care to the horse.

(e)  It is a defense to prosecution for an offense under this section that the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.

(f)  It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:

(1)  form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:

(A)  fishing, hunting, or trapping; or

(B)  wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or

(2)  animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.

(g)  This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of this section.

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CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS

(a) In this section:

(1)  “Abandon” includes abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.

(2)  “Animal” means a domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, and a wild living creature previously captured.  The term does not include an uncaptured wild living creature or a livestock animal.

(3)  “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.

(4)  “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of an animal subject to the person’s care and control, regardless of ownership of the animal.

(5)  “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.

(6)  “Livestock animal” has the meaning assigned by Section 42.09.

(7)  “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

(8)  “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(b)  A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

(1)  tortures an animal or in a cruel manner kills or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;

(2)  without the owner’s effective consent, kills, administers poison to, or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;

(3)  fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;

(4)  abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;

(5)  transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner;

(6)  without the owner’s effective consent, causes bodily injury to an animal;

(7)  causes one animal to fight with another animal, if either animal is not a dog;

(8)  uses a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack; or

(9)  seriously overworks an animal.

(c)  An offense under Subsection (b)(3), (4), (5), (6), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.09, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.09.  An offense under Subsection (b)(1), (2), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.09, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.09.

(d)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1)  the actor had a reasonable fear of bodily injury to the actor or to another person by a dangerous wild animal as defined by Section 822.101, Health and Safety Code; or

(2)  the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.

(e)  It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (b)(2) or (6) that:

(1)  the animal was discovered on the person’s property in the act of or after injuring or killing the person’s livestock animals or damaging the person’s crops and that the person killed or injured the animal at the time of this discovery; or

(2)  the person killed or injured the animal within the scope of the person’s employment as a public servant or in furtherance of activities or operations associated with electricity transmission or distribution, electricity generation or operations associated with the generation of electricity, or natural gas delivery.

(f)  It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:

(1)  form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:

(A)  fishing, hunting, or trapping; or

(B)  wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or

(2)  animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.

(g)  This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of the section.[/x_tab][/x_tabs][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]

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