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What Are The Penalties For Animal Cruelty In Michigan?

What are the penalties for animal cruelty in michigan

On March 21st, 2019, tougher criminal penalties regarding animal cruelty became effective in the State of Michigan. As a result, any person who unlawfully causes an animal to be killed, tortured and disfigured may be subjected to a felony conviction that can result in fines, probation, community service or even imprisonment.

ANIMAL CRUELTY IN THE FIRST DEGREE

An individual is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree, contrary to MCL 750.50b(3), if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • First, that the individual knowingly kills, tortures, mutilates, maims or disfigures an animal OR knowingly administers poison to an animal, or knowingly exposes an animal to any poisonous substance, with the intent that the substance be taken or swallowed by the animal.
  • Second, that the individual acted against the animal with the intent to cause mental suffering or distress to a person or to exert control over a person.
  • Third, that the animal was a companion animal. “Companion animal” means an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by its owner to be, a pet, or that is a service animal. Companion animal includes, but is not limited to, dogs and cats.

The penalty for animal cruelty in the first degree is a felony conviction punishable by one or more of the following:

  • Up to 10 years in the state prison, and/or a fine up to $5,000.00, and/or up to 500 hours of community service. MCL 750.50b(6).
  • The court may order a term of imprisonment imposed for a violation of this section to be served consecutively to a term of imprisonment imposed for any other crime including any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction as the violation of this section. MCL 750.50b(9).
  • The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the prosecution and the costs of the care, housing, and veterinary medical care for the animal victim, as applicable. MCL 750.50b(10).
  • If probation is ordered, the court may include as a condition of that probation that the defendant be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological counseling and, if determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric or psychological counseling at his or her own expense. MCL 750.50b(11).
  • The court may order the defendant not to own or possess an animal for any period of time determined by the court, which may include permanent relinquishment. MCL 750.50b(12). A violation of this order can subject the defendant to the civil and criminal contempt power of the court and, if found guilty of criminal contempt, may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. MCL 750.50b(13).

ANIMAL CRUELTY IN THE SECOND DEGREE

An individual is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree, contrary to MCL 750.50b(4), if the prosecutor can prove EITHER of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The individual intentionally and knowingly kills, tortures, mutilates, maims or disfigures an animal OR intentionally and knowingly administers poison to an animal, or intentionally and knowingly exposes an animal to any poisonous substance, with the intent that the substance be taken or swallowed by the animal.
  • The individual acted against a companion animal with the intent to cause mental suffering or distress to a person or to exert control over a person. “Companion animal” means an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by its owner to be, a pet, or that is a service animal. Companion animal includes, but is not limited to, dogs and cats.

The penalty for animal cruelty in the second degree is a felony conviction punishable by one or more of the following:

  • Up to 7 years in the state prison, and/or a fine up to $5,000.00, and/or up to 500 hours of community service. MCL 750.50b(7).
  • The court may order a term of imprisonment imposed for a violation of this section to be served consecutively to a term of imprisonment imposed for any other crime including any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction as the violation of this section. MCL 750.50b(9).
  • The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the prosecution and the costs of the care, housing, and veterinary medical care for the animal victim, as applicable. MCL 750.50b(10).
  • If probation is ordered, the court may include as a condition of that probation that the defendant be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological counseling and, if determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric or psychological counseling at his or her own expense. MCL 750.50b(11).
  • The court may order the defendant not to own or possess an animal for any period of time determined by the court, which may include permanent relinquishment. MCL 750.50b(12). A violation of this order can subject the defendant to the civil and criminal contempt power of the court and, if found guilty of criminal contempt, may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. MCL 750.50b(13).

ANIMAL CRUELTY IN THE THIRD DEGREE

An individual is guilty of animal cruelty in the third degree, contrary to MCL 750.50b(5), if the prosecutor can prove ANY of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The individual knowingly kills, tortures, mutilates, maims or disfigures an animal
  • The individual commits a reckless act knowing or having reason to know that the act will cause an animal to be killed, tortured, mutilated, maimed, or disfigured.
  • The individual knowingly administers poison to an animal, or knowingly exposes an animal to any poisonous substance, with the intent that the substance be taken or swallowed by the animal.
  • The individual acted against an animal with the intent to cause mental suffering or distress to a person or to exert control over a person.

The penalty for animal cruelty in the third degree is a felony conviction punishable by one or more of the following:

  • Up to 4 years in the state prison, and/or a fine up to $5,000.00, and/or up to 500 hours of community service. MCL 750.50b(8).
  • The court may order a term of imprisonment imposed for a violation of this section to be served consecutively to a term of imprisonment imposed for any other crime including any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction as the violation of this section. MCL 750.50b(9).
  • The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the prosecution and the costs of the care, housing, and veterinary medical care for the animal victim, as applicable. MCL 750.50b(10).
  • If probation is ordered, the court may include as a condition of that probation that the defendant be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological counseling and, if determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric or psychological counseling at his or her own expense. MCL 750.50b(11).
  • The court may order the defendant not to own or possess an animal for any period of time determined by the court, which may include permanent relinquishment. MCL 750.50b(12). A violation of this order can subject the defendant to the civil and criminal contempt power of the court and, if found guilty of criminal contempt, may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. MCL 750.50b(13).

EXEMPTIONS TO ANIMAL CRUELTY

The prohibitions of this statute do not apply to the following:

  • Lawful killing of livestock or a customary animal husbandry or farming practice involving livestock. MCL 750.50b(14).
  • Fishing. MCL 750.50b(15)(a).
  • Hunting, trapping or wildlife control regulated under the natural resources and environmental protection act. MCL 750.50b(15)(b).
  • Pest or rodent control regulated under part 83 of the natural resources and environmental protection act. MCL 750.50b(15)(c).
  • Destruction of dog pursuant to Michigan’s dog law. MCL 750.50b(15)(d).
  • Lawful killing or use of an animal for scientific research under Michigan law. MCL 750.50b(16).
  • Veterinarian or a veterinary technician lawfully engaging in the practice of veterinary medicine. MCL 750.50b(17).
  • Lawful killing or use of an animal under the animal industry act (e.g. slaughter for human consumption). MCL 750.50b(18).

In addition, the statute provides that a person may not be found guilty of animal cruelty if any of the prohibited acts were performed with “just cause”. For example, a wild pig might be permissibly killed if running loose on public property according to Michigan’s swine law. In addition, an animal might be harmed or killed if the person acted in self-defense or defense of others if the animal became aggressive. What is or is not considered “just cause” may be dependent on the facts and circumstances of the case for a judge or jury to figure out.

A charge of animal cruelty is a serious matter because a felony conviction can also prevent jury service, affect employment opportunities and even impact the ability to secure housing. It is critical to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner to aggressively protect your rights and stand against the power of the prosecutor, the police and even unpopular public opinion. A knowledgeable attorney can help you put together a winning defense or even negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor if the evidence against you is strong.

If you or a loved one are charged with any crime, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

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