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Animal cruelty in Texas

Texas animal cruelty laws are much narrower than the laws of many other states, as wild animals, animals used in experiments and circus animals are not protected. Animal cruelty offenses are either subject to criminal prosecution or a civil case. The criminal laws are reserved for animals that are domesticated or that are domesticated livestock.

People may be charged with animal cruelty for a number of different actions. The law defines animal cruelty to include torturing, failing to provide adequate food, shelter or care and abandoning an animal as acts of animal cruelty. Also included are the transportation of animals in an inhumane way, killing or maiming an animal, tripping horses, making animals fight, overworking animals, injuring another person's animal or using an animal as bait in a dog race.

Animal cruelty is a felony offense. Potential penalties include up to two years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine. Cockfighting is also illegal and is a felony carrying the same potential penalties if convicted. A person who is instead sued under the civil statutes faces a fine and removal of the animals.

People are sometimes charged with animal cruelty even when they have done nothing wrong. As a conviction for the offense can garner the person a felony record as well as a significant fine and imprisonment, it is important for those who have received this type of criminal charge to be proactive in mounting a defense as early as possible. A criminal defense attorney may hire an expert to examine the animal in order to gain an independent evaluation of the animal's condition and the causes of it. It can be very important to do this early, before the animal either is restored to health or dies. Criminal defense attorneys can also obtain a knowledgeable review of the findings that led to the charges.

Source: SPCA of Texas, "Texas Animal Cruelty Laws", accessed on Jan. 27, 2015

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