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What You Need to Know About Animal Cruelty Charges and Penalties in Georgia

Animal cruelty charges frequently escalate into high-profile cases that are exploited and widely promulgated through media and news outlets, especially when celebrities and public figures are involved. The emotionally charged nature of this crime often results in a prejudiced backlash against the accused before they have had to chance to defend themselves.

While animal cruelty laws are necessary to protect the safety and wellbeing of animals, the nature of each case must be examined in the interest of protecting the accused. Frequently, individuals are fined or taken into custody for animal cruelty charges as a result of inaccurate reports of neglect from neighbors, or for harming animals in an act of self-defense.

What Constitutes Cruelty to Animals in The State of Georgia?

Under OCGA 16-12-4, A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he or she:

  • Causes physical pain, suffering, or death to an animal by any unjustifiable act or omission; or
  • Fails to provide an animal in their custody with adequate food, water, living conditions or resources that a reasonable person would think sufficient for the animal’s size, breed, species, and physical condition.

Aggravated cruelty charges are much more serious, and involve malicious intent. A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty when he or she:

  • Maliciously causes the death of an animal;
  • Maliciously causes physical harm to an animal by depriving it of a member of its body, by rendering a part of such animal's body useless, or by seriously disfiguring such animal's body or a member thereof;
  • Maliciously tortures an animal by the infliction of or subjection to severe or prolonged physical pain;
  • Fails to provide an animal in their custody with adequate food, water, living conditions or resources that a reasonable person would think sufficient for the animal’s size, breed, species, and physical condition with malicious intent.

What Are The Penalties for Animal Cruelty Charges?

Penalties for animal cruelty charges can vary, but they are not to be taken lightly. A first-time offense for animal cruelty is charged as a misdemeanor. A second-time offense, however, is considered aggravated cruelty and crimes committed as a juvenile as well as in other countries outside the U.S. are taken into account as a first offense.

Aggravated cruelty charges are prosecuted as a felony and carry a prison sentence of 1-5 years, with fines up to $15,000. A second-time offense for aggravated cruelty is a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and fines of up to $100,000.

What Should You Do if You’ve Have Been Accused of Animal Cruelty?

If you are facing animal cruelty charges, it is critical that you secure proper legal representation. Often, these types of cases garner unwanted attention that can negatively impact individual’s reputation, career, and emotional wellbeing even after they are proven innocent.

Our attorneys have successfully defended individuals wrongfully accused of animal cruelty charges and have proved people who were facing animals cruelty charges were not guilty on grounds of self-defense.

If you or someone you know is facing animal cruelty charges, contact us today at (770)-822-9099; one of our skilled attorneys will provide you with a confidential, free case evaluation.

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