Nevada "Animal Cruelty" Laws
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers

Harming animals is a serious offense in Nevada.  Not only can it carry prison and high fines . . . the cops may impound the animal and eventually put it down.  But a Las Vegas Criminal Defense attorney who's experienced in these cases may be able to keep the defendant out of jail and in custody of his/her pet.

This article explains the legal definition of "animal abuse and cruelty" in Las Vegas, Nevada.  There're fifteen separate laws punishing various acts of torture and neglect.  Click below on a specific crime to learn its definition and penalties.

1.Overdriving, torturing, injuring or abandoning animals in Las Vegas, NV
(This topic includes failure to provide food, to restrain dogs or to use
outdoor enclosures.)
2. Poisoning animals in Las Vegas, NV
3. Organizing or watching an animal fight, or training or selling fight animals, in Las Vegas, NV
(This topic includes dog fighting
and cock-fighting)
4. Using or profiting from a venue used for animal fights in Las Vegas, NV
5. Mistreatment of police animals in
Las Vegas, NV
6. Mistreatment of show dogs in
Las Vegas, NV
7. Abandoning a disabled animal in
Las Vegas, NV
8. Not providing proper air, food, shelter or water to an impounded animal in Las Vegas, NV
9. Selling or exposing a diseased animal in
Las Vegas, NV
10. Sale of disabled horses in
Las Vegas, NV
11. Throwing substances injurious to animals in public places in Las Vegas, NV
12. Keeping a cow or other milk-producing animal in an unhealthy place or diseased condition in
Las Vegas, NV
13. Running horses on a highway in
Las Vegas, NV
14. Carrying animals in a cruel manner in
Las Vegas, NV
15. Allowing a cat or dog to remain unattended in a motor vehicle during extreme heat or cold in
Las Vegas, NV

Ways to fight allegations of animal abuse and cruelty in Nevada are discussed at the very end of this article.  To report suspected animal abuse contact the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society or Las Vegas Animal Control.  To adopt a rescued animal contact the Nevada Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

1. Overdriving, torturing, injuring or abandoning animals in Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.100)

NRS 574.100 is the central "animal abuse" statute in Las Vegas.  It has laws prohibiting torture, neglect, and endangerment as well as rules regarding dog restraints and outdoor enclosures.  Note that these laws do not apply with respect to an accidental injury or death of an animal that occurs in the normal course of operating a ranch or carrying out a rodeo or livestock show.

Animal abuse

With regard to all animals including dogs, it's a crime in Nevada either to:

  • overdrive, overload, torture, cruelly beat or unjustifiably injure, maim, mutilate or kill an animal, whether belonging to the defendant or to another,
  • deprive an animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglect or refuse to furnish it such sustenance or drink,
  • cause, procure or allow an animal to be overdriven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed or to be deprived of necessary food or drink,
  • instigate, engage in, or in any way further an act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty, or
  • abandon an animal in circumstances other than those prohibited by NRS 574.110 (to read about this exception either scroll down to section 7 or click here)

Note it's considered animal abuse if the defendant merely "allows" for the animal to endure torture.  It's not necessary for the defendant to physically inflict the torture him/herself to be prosecuted in Nevada.

Dog restraints and enclosures

With regard to dogs, it's a crime in Nevada to restrain a dog for more than 14 hours during a 24-hour period.  It's also illegal to restrain a dog by either:

  • using a prong, pinch or choke collar or similar restraint, or
  • using a tether, chain, tie, trolley or pulley system or other device that:

    1. is less than 12 feet in length, or
    2. fails to allow the dog to move at least 12 feet or,
    3. allows the dog to reach a fence or other object that may cause the dog to become injured, entangled or to die by strangulation after jumping the fence or object

Nevada law further mandates that any pen or outdoor enclosure used to maintain a dog be appropriate for the dog's size and breed.  If the property is too small to comply with the above restraint requirements, a dog may be maintained unrestrained in a pen or other outdoor enclosure.  Note that these restraint and enclosure requirements do not apply to a dog that is either:

  • tethered, chained, tied, restrained or placed in a pen or enclosure by a veterinarian during the course of the veterinarian's practice,
  • being used lawfully to hunt a species of wildlife in Nevada during the hunting season for that species,
  • receiving training to hunt a species of wildlife in Nevada,
  • in attendance at and participating in an exhibition, show, contest or other event in which the skill, breeding or stamina of the dog is judged or examined,
  • being kept in a shelter or boarding facility or temporarily in a camping area,
  • temporarily being cared for as part of a rescue operation or in any other manner in conjunction with a bona fide nonprofit organization formed for animal welfare purposes,
  • living on land that is directly related to an active agricultural operation, if the restraint is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of the dog ("agricultural operation" means any activity that is necessary for the commercial growing and harvesting of crops or the raising of livestock or poultry), or
  • with a person having custody or control of the dog, if the person is engaged in a temporary task or activity with the dog for not more than 1 hour.

Also note that dog retailers, dealers and operators are required to follow additional laws regarding dog handling that may differ from the above.

Penalties

The punishment for violating the above animal abuse or dog restraint laws gets harsher with each successive offense.  And depending on the circumstances the defendant may be ordered to surrender ownership or possession of the allegedly mistreated animal.

A first offense of animal cruelty within the preceding 7 years is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada carrying:

  • 2 days to 6 months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail), and
  • 48 to 120 hours of community service, and
  • $200 to $1,000 in fines, and
  • restitution for all costs associated with the care and impoundment of any mistreated animal including money expended for veterinary treatment, feed and housing

Note that any jail time may be served intermittently at the discretion of the judge.  However each period of confinement must be no less than 4 consecutive hours and must occur either at a time when the defendant is not required to be at the place of employment or on a weekend.

A second offense of animal cruelty within a 7-year period is also a misdemeanor in Nevada.  The sentence is increased to:

  • 10 days to 6 months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail), and
  • 100 hours to 200 hours of community service, and
  • $500 to $1,000 in fines, and
  • restitution for all expenses for the care and impoundment of the mistreated animal such veterinary services, food and shelter

Finally, a third or subsequent offense of animal cruelty within a 7-year span is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada.  The punishment includes:

  • 1 to 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution for the expense for treating, feeding and housing the mistreated animal

When determining the punishment the judge takes into account several factors including the condition of the animal.  Predictably the sentence will probably be more severe if the animal died or sustained an injury.

Related crimes:  Bestiality & Dog Racing as a Gaming Activity

Nevada does not have a law specifically prohibiting bestiality.  However Nevada child pornography laws makes it a felony to depict children engaging in sexual acts with animals.  Learn more in our article on Nevada child pornography laws.

Dog racing is not considered animal cruelty in Las Vegas unless the circumstances are abusive.  However it is a misdemeanor to gamble on dog racing or to run dog racing for gaming purposes.  Learn more at our article on the Nevada crime of dog racing as a gaming activity (NRS 207.235).

2. Poisoning animals in Las Vegas, Nevada
(NRS 574.150)

The punishment for poisoning an animal in Nevada turns on the type of animal.  Note that it's immaterial whether the animal belongs to the defendant.  Also note that this law does not prohibit killing noxious animals.

Horses, mules or domestic cattle

It's a category C felony in Nevada either to:

  • unjustifiably administer any poisonous or noxious drug or substance to a horse, mule or domestic cattle, or
  • unjustifiably expose any poisonous or noxious drug or substance with the intent that it be taken by a horse, mule or domestic cattle

The punishment may include:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

Animals other than horses, mules or domestic cattle

It's a gross misdemeanor in Nevada either to:

  • unjustifiably administer any poisonous or noxious drug or substance to the animal, or
  • unjustifiably expose any poisonous or noxious drug or substance with the intent that it be taken by the animal

Upon conviction the judge may order a sentence of:

  • up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, and
  • restitution
3. Organizing or watching an animal fight, or training or selling fight animals, in Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.070)

NRS 574.070 is Nevada's main animal fighting statute.  It prohibits three separate behaviors related to animal-fighting:  1)  running an animal fight, 2) keeping, training or selling a fight animal, and 3) watching an animal fight.

As explained below each of these offenses carry different penalties.  Note that these laws do not prohibit dog- or bird-use for lawful hunting or the management of livestock.

1.  Running or assisting an animal fight

It's illegal to begin, cause, instigate, promote, carry on, assist, umpire, or in any way aid in furthering an animal fight.  Animal fighting is still unlawful even if no one placed bets on the fight.  The punishment depends on if the animal was a dog or not:

Dog fighting penalties

The sentence for causing or assisting a dog fight become harsher with each successive conviction.  A first offense is a category D felony in Nevada carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

A second offense is a category C felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines

A third of subsequent offense is a category B felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of 1 to 6 years in prison.

Animal fighting penalties not including dogs

The penalties for participating in a non-dog animal fight also increase with each successive conviction.  Note that these penalties would apply to cock-fighting.

A first offense of animal fighting is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada carrying:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

A second offense of animal fighting is a category E felony in Nevada.  The judge typically orders probation with a suspended sentence of:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

A third or subsequent offense is a category D felony in Nevada carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

2.  Keeping, training, selling or buying fight animals

It's a crime in Nevada either to:

  • own, possess, keep, train, promote or purchase an animal with the intent to use it to fight another animal, or
  • sell an animal knowing that it is intended to be used to fight another animal

The penalty the judge imposes will depend on whether the defendant has any previous convictions for keeping, training, purchasing or selling a fight animal.  A first offense is a gross misdemeanor carrying:

  • up to 364 days in prison, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

A second conviction is a category E felony in Nevada.  Probation is the standard outcome, although the sentence could possibly include:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

A third or subsequent offense is sentenced as a category D felony carrying

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

3. Watching an animal fight

Nevada prohibits people from knowingly witnessing any fight between animals in an exhibition or for amusement or gain.  Note that it doesn't matter whether any money is riding on the fight-merely being a spectator to the fight is a criminal act in Nevada.

A first offense of knowingly watching an animal fight is a misdemeanor with a sentence of:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

A second offense is a gross misdemeanor carrying:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

A third or successive conviction is a category E felony.  The standard sentence includes probation with no incarceration, but the judge may order:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

To learn more about Nevada dog-fighting laws, go to our informational article on Nevada dog-fighting laws.

4. Using or profiting from a venue used for animal fights in Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.060)

NRS 574.060 prohibits someone from using, keeping, managing or receiving admission money for a venue used for animal fighting.  It's also illegal to own or occupy a venue while willfully permitting it to be used for an animal fight.  Note that the venue may be any kind of location indoors or outdoors such as a house, apartment, or pit.

A first offense of this crime is a gross misdemeanor carrying:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

A second offense is a category E felony.  In most cases the judge orders probation, although the maximum sentence may include:

  • 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

A third or subsequent offense is a category D felony carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines
5. Mistreatment of police animals in
Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.105)

Nevada law prohibits the willful and malicious mistreatment of police animals including:

  • taunting, tormenting, teasing, beating, striking or administering a desensitizing drug, chemical or substance to a police animal, or
  • interfering with a police animal or a handler in the performance of duties assigned to the police animal or handler, or
  • torturing, mutilating, injuring, poisoning, disabling or killing a police animal

Mistreating a police animal without totally disabling or killing it is a category D felony.  The penalty includes:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines, and
  • up to $10,000 in additional fines if the mistreatment involved torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning

Mistreating a police animal that results in total disabling or death is a category C felony carrying:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • maybe restitution to the agency that owns the animal including veterinary services and the cost of replacing the animal

Note that it is legal for a licensed euthanasia technician, a peace officer or a veterinarian to euthanize a police animal in an emergency if the police animal is critically wounded and would otherwise endure undue suffering and pain.

6. Mistreatment of show dogs in
Las Vegas, Nevada (NRS 574.107)

Nevada has three separate animal cruelty laws regarding dogs that are being used in an exhibition, show, contest or other event that judges or examines the dogs' skill, breeding or stamina:

The first law prohibits someone from willfully, unjustifiably and maliciously tampering or interfering with a show dog.  This offense carries category D felony penalties of:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

The second law prohibits someone from willfully and unjustifiably abusing or injuring a show dog.  Prosecutors charge this offense as a category D felony carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines, and
  • maybe an additional fine of up to $10,000

The final law prohibits someone from willfully and unjustifiably killing a show dog.  This is a category C penalty with a sentence of:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines

Note that these three laws only apply when the dog belongs to someone other than the defendant.

7. Abandonment of disabled animals in
Las Vegas, Nevada (NRS 574.110)

Nevada animal abuse laws make it a misdemeanor for an owner, possessor or custodian of a maimed, diseased, disabled or infirm animal either to:

  • abandon the animal, or
  • leave the animal to die in a public street, road or place, or
  • allow it to lie in a public street, road or place more than 3 hours after receiving notice that the animal has been lying there disabled

The punishment for abandoning a disabled animal includes:

  • up to 6 months in jail and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines.

The defendant may also be responsible for any expenses the police incur to take care of the animal and any property the police seizes (such as a car the animal was in).  Law enforcement may also put down the animal after receiving the owner's written consent or the approval of two reputable citizens the cop calls upon to view the animal's condition.

8. Not providing proper air, food, shelter or water to an impounded animal in Las Vegas, Nevada
(NRS 574.120)

It's illegal in Nevada to impound or confine an animal and then to refuse or neglect to supply it with sufficient good and wholesome air, food, shelter and water.  Penalties for breaking this animal cruelty law get more extreme with each conviction.  The defendant may also have to pay restitution for animal care.

A first offense within a 7-year time-span is a misdemeanor carrying:

  • 2 days to 6 months in jail, and
  • 48 hours to 120 hours of community service, and
  • $200 to $1,000 in fines.

The judge may permit the defendant to serve any incarceration sentence intermittently so that he/she may remain employed.  Meanwhile a second offense within a 7-year time-span is a misdemeanor as well.  This sentence carries:

  • 10 days to 6 months in jail, and
  • 100 hours to 200 hours of community service, and
  • $500 to $1,000 in fines.

Finally a third or subsequent offense within a 7-year time-span is a category C felony carrying:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $10,000 in fines
9. Selling or exposing a diseased animal in
Las Vegas, Nevada (NRS 574.130)

A person who willfully uses, exposes, permits to be sold, sells (or offers to sell) any animal infected with glanders, farcy, or other contagious or infectious diseases dangerous to humans or animals may be convicted of a misdemeanor.  It's also a misdemeanor to refuse to kill an animal infected with such a dangerous disease.  The penalty includes:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines
10. Sale of disabled horses in Las Vegas, Nevada
(NRS 574.140)

It's unlawful to sell a diseased horse in Nevada.  The misdemeanor penalty carries a sentence of:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines
11. Throwing substances injurious to animals in public places in Las Vegas, Nevada
(NRS 574.160)

It's a misdemeanor in Nevada when someone willfully throws, drops or places (or causes to be thrown, dropped or placed) upon any road, highway, street or public place any of the following:

  • glass,
  • nails,
  • pieces of metal, or
  • other substances which might wound, disable or injure any animal.

The judge may order a sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

12. Keeping a cow or other milk-producing animal in an unhealthy place or diseased condition in
Las Vegas, Nevada (NRS 574.170)

It's a misdemeanor in Nevada for a person who keeps a cow or any animal for the production of milk to do any of the following:

  • to keep the animal in a crowded or unhealthy place,
  • to keep the animal in a diseased condition,
  • to feed the animal food that produces impure or unwholesome milk

The penalty for violating NRS 574.170 is up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

13. Running horses on a highway in
Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.180)

A person who unjustifiably causes a horse to draw a vehicle upon any plank road, turnpike or public highway may be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.  The penalty is up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

14. Carrying animals in a cruel manner in
Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.190)

A person who carries (or causes to be carried) an animal in any vessel or vehicle in a cruel or inhuman manner, or so as to produce torture, faces misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.  A Nevada judge may sentence the defendant to up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

15. Allowing a cat or dog to remain unattended in a motor vehicle during extreme heat or cold in
Las Vegas, Nevada  (NRS 574.195)

It's a misdemeanor in Nevada for a person to allow a cat or dog to remain unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle during a extreme heat or cold or in any other manner that endangers the health or safety of the animal.  The penalty is up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Note that this law does not apply in the contexts of lawful hunting of game animals or training exercises or field trials relating to hunting.  For more information go to our article on Nevada laws for leaving a cat or dog unattended in a car.

Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges in Nevada

There exist several potential defense strategies to fight charges of animal abuse and cruelty in Nevada.  The following are some of the most common:

  • Self-defense in Nevada.  It's perfectly legal to injure or kill an animal that's viciously attacking a human being.  If the defense attorney can show that the defendant was merely protecting him/herself or someone else by hurting the animal, then animal cruelty charges cannot stand.
  • Insufficient evidence.  A prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed animal cruelty in order to get a guilty verdict.  As long as the defense attorney can demonstrate that the prosecutor's evidence isn't adequate enough or reliable enough to meet that burden, then the case may be dismissed.
  • Lack of criminal intent.  Some Nevada animal cruelty statutes require that the defendant act with "criminal intent" in order to be found guilty.  For instance under NRS 574.070 it's illegal to sell a dog with the knowledge that it's going to be used as a fight dog.  So if the defense attorney can make a convincing argument that the defendant had no idea that the people buying the dog were going to exploit it as a fight dog, then the defendant shouldn't be held criminally liable.
Arrested?  There's help . . . .

If you've been accused of animal abuse in Nevada, contact Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).  They can discuss with you for free how they may negotiate or litigate a charge reduction or dismissal.  If necessary they'll take the case to trial and fight for a "not guilty" verdict.  And if the cops confiscated your pet they will try to get him/her home to you as quickly as possible.

For information on California animal abuse & cruelty laws | Penal Code 597 PC, go to our page on California animal abuse & cruelty laws | Penal Code 597 PC.  For further reading see our articles on category B felony in Nevada, self-defense in Nevada, the Nevada crime of dog racing as a gaming activity, and Nevada laws for leaving a cat or dog unattended in a car.

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