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Is Animal Cruelty a Felony in New Jersey?

They say that dogs are a man’s best friend. Domestic animals are a major part of our society. Most pets are loving and harmless, but unfortunately, some people abuse and hurt them regardless. Animal cruelty is illegal across the United States and being convicted can result in severe and harsh consequences. New Jersey state law does not recognize “felony” as a grading term, but animal cruelty can be charged as an indictable crime which is a similar level of severity. For assistance with your case and to acquire experienced legal representation, reach out to a skilled Bergen County criminal defense attorney.

What is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty may be defined differently depending on what state you are being charged in. Directly or indirectly causing harm of any kind could result in animal abuse or cruelty charges. In New Jersey, the following and more are illegal acts of animal cruelty.

  • Overworking, overloading, or needlessly killing a living animal or creature
  • Purposefully tormenting, torturing, maiming, hanging, poisoning, beating, cruelly abusing, or needlessly mutilating a living animal or creature
  • Failing to provide a living animal or creature with care resulting in bodily harm
  • Inflicting unnecessary cruelty upon a living creature or animal
  • Abandoning a living creature or animal in inhumane conditions

There are more specific state laws regarding slaughtering, abandonment, animal fighting, selling pelts, illegal product testing, and more.

What Are the Penalties for Animal Cruelty in New Jersey?

Animal cruelty can be charged as either a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) or an indictable crime (felony). The penalties you are given will vary depending on the circumstances of your case.

Some factors that can influence the severity of a court’s ruling are the nature of the abuse, how severe the animal’s injuries were, if the animal died, your past criminal record, and more. The following is a list of penalties associated with various animal cruelty crimes.

Disorderly persons offense:

  • Fines ranging from $250 to $1,000
  • Jail time of up to 6 months

Disorderly persons offense of inflicting unnecessary cruelty, abandonment, or neglect:

  • Fines ranging from $250 to $2,000
  • Jail time of up to 6 months

Fourth-degree indictable crime:

  • Fines ranging from $500 to $10,000
  • Jail time of up to 18 months

Third-degree indictable crime:

  • Fines up to $15,000
  • Jail time of up to 5 years

You can also accrue other penalties such as mandatory community service, additional fines, and more.

Are There Exceptions to Animal Cruelty Laws?

There are certain exceptions to animal cruelty laws, as there are legal actions that can be considered abuse or cruelty by some. For example, in the state of New Jersey, the law exempts legal hunting, fishing, authorized experiments, and the killing of certain vermin that are not pets like rats.

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