ARS 13-2910 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of animal cruelty. People commit this offense when they intentionally or recklessly harm an animal through cruel mistreatment, neglect, cruelty, or abandonment. A violation of this law can lead to a Class 5 felony charge punishable by over two years in state prison.
The language of ARS 13-2910 lists 16 ways in which a person can commit this offense. Some of these include by a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- subjecting an animal to cruel neglect or abandonment,
- failing to provide medical attention to an animal that is necessary to prevent the animal from experiencing extended suffering, and
- inflicting unnecessary serious physical injury on an animal.
- purposely leaving a pet in a parked car with the windows open on a hot day.
- intentionally not taking a wounded pet to the vet.
- intentionally hitting a dog with a stool.
People accused of an animal cruelty charge can challenge it with a legal defense. A few common defenses include accused people showing that they:
- hurt an animal on accident,
- are exempt under the law, and/or
- acted in self-defense.
Depending on the facts in animal cruelty cases, a violation of ARS 13-2910 can be charged as a:
A Class 5 felony is the most serious charge and is punishable with prison time of up two years and six months. A Class 1 misdemeanor is the least serious charge and is punishable by up to six months of jail time.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “animal cruelty”?
People can violate Arizona’s animal cruelty laws in one of several different ways. Some of the most common violations occur when people:
- recklessly subject any animal to cruel mistreatment,
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly kill any animal under the custody or control of another person without either legal privilege or consent of the owner,
- recklessly interfere with, kill, or harm a working animal or service animal without either legal privilege or consent of the owner.
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly leave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when the act is likely to cause physical injury or death to the animal,
- intentionally or knowingly subject a domestic animal to cruel mistreatment,
- intentionally or knowingly subject any animal under the person’s custody or control to cruel neglect or abandonment and it results in serious physical injury to the animal, and
- intentionally or knowingly harass a working animal that is in a law enforcement officer’s vehicle or trailer without either legal privilege or consent of the animal’s owner.i
Note that as to number four above, a peace officer or animal control enforcement agent can use reasonable force to open a vehicle in order to rescue the animal from any animal abusers.
For purposes of this section:
- “animal” means a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian,
- “cruel mistreatment” means to torture or otherwise inflict unnecessary serious physical injury on an animal,
- “cruel neglect” means to fail to provide an animal with necessary food, water, or shelter,
- “domestic animal” means an animal that is primarily kept as a pet or companion,
- “service animal” is different from farm animals and means an animal that helps its owner in one or more daily living tasks and is trained to not pose a danger to the health and safety of the general public, and
- “working animal” means a horse or dog that is used by law enforcement and is under the control of a handler.ii
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-2910?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients challenge allegations of cruelty to animals. Three common ones include defense lawyers showing that defendants:
- harmed an animal on accident.
- are exempt under the law.
- acted in self-defense.
Most animal abuse crimes under this statute require that an offender act either intentionally or knowingly. These terms mean that defendants are only guilty of a crime if they hurt an animal on purpose or did so knowing that an animal would experience some type of cruelty. A defense, then, is for defendants to show that they did not act with either of these aims. Perhaps, for example, an accused simply injured an animal on accident.
2.2 Exempt under the law
The language of ARS 13-2910 lists a few exceptions where people are not guilty of animal cruelty even if they hurt an animal. For example, the law states that people can take the life of an animal if done by means of a hunting or fishing activity regulated by either the:
Therefore, defendants can try to show their innocence by saying that their acts fell into an exception that is listed in the statute.
Arizona law allows people to defend themselves if there is the danger of an imminent attack. These laws let people stand up to dangers posed by both people and animals (e.g., an aggressive Pitbull).
A valid defense, therefore, is that an accused wounded or killed an animal in defense of:
- another person, or
- another animal.
3. What are the penalties?
In particular, a prosecutor can file an animal cruelty charge as either a:
- Class 5 felony, punishable by up to two years and six months in state prison,
- Class 6 felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, or
- Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to animal cruelty. These include:
- bestiality – ARS 13-1411,
- dogfighting – ARS 13-2910.01, and
- cockfighting – ARS 13-2910.03.
4.1 Bestiality – ARS 13-1411
Per ARS 13-1411, bestiality is the crime where people knowingly engage in, or cause someone else to engage in, oral sexual contact, sexual contact, or sexual intercourse with an animal.
The term “animal,” as used under this statute, has the same definition as used under ARS 13-2910.
4.2 Dogfighting – ARS 13-2910.01
Per ARS 13-2910.01, dogfighting is the offense where a person owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog with the intent that such dog engages in an exhibition of fighting with another dog.
Unlike with a violation of ARS 13-2910, a violation of this statute is always charged as a Class 5 felony.
4.3 Cockfighting – ARS 13-2910.03
Under ARS 13-2910.03, cockfighting is the crime where a person owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any cock with the intent that such rooster engages in an exhibition of fighting with another rooster.
Note that depending on the facts of the case, a person could be charged with both:
- cockfighting, and
- animal cruelty.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2910 Subsection A. See also State v. Hausner, 230 Ariz. 60 (2012). A person who violates Subsection a will face corresponding penalties set forth in ARS 13-2910G.
- ARS 13-2910H.
- ARS 13-2910C3.
- ARS 13-2910G.