Defense Attorney for Animal Abuse, Neglect, and Cruelty

If you face animal abuse, neglect, or cruelty allegations, you will need a defense attorney capable of fending off a full-tilt attack by the prosecution.


What does the law consider abuse, neglect, and cruelty?

The animal neglect, abuse, and cruelty laws in Michigan are focused on the health of animals. Animals can be pets or livestock on farms. The law recognizes that animals bred on farms and ranches for food do not get the same level of care and comfort as household pets; however, the law requires that they receive care that is “customary and reasonable” in the farming industry. Individuals charged with these offenses in Michigan face harsh preconceptions from judges and prosecutors. It takes prominent, respected defense attorneys to protect and defend clients facing animal abuse, neglect, or cruelty charges.

Abuse can be through affirmative “bad acts” such as killing, beating, or confining an animal. It can also occur when health-related things are not provided to the animal, such as food, water, protection from the elements, veterinary care, and medication. Abandonment is also prohibited. The law even demands that animals get a healthy amount of exercise. What constitutes abuse, neglect, and cruelty under Michigan law is limited only by the imagination and is common sense.

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Penalties for Animal Abuse, Neglect, and Cruelty

Abuse, neglect, cruelty with one animal: 93 days in jail, 2 years of court-supervised probation, 200 hours of community service, and a $1,000.00 fine.

  • Abuse, neglect, cruelty with 2 to 3 animals or with the death of any animal: 1 year in jail, 2 years of court-supervised probation, 300 hours of community service, and a $2,000.00 fine.
  • Abuse, neglect, cruelty with 4 to 10 animals or if the defendant has a prior animal abuse conviction: 2 years in prison, 5 years of court-supervised probation, 300 hours of community service, and a $2,000.00 fine.
  • Abuse, neglect, cruelty with 10 to 25 animals or with 2 prior animal abuse convictions: 4 years in prison, 5 years of court-supervised probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $5,000.00 fine.
  • Abuse, neglect, cruelty with 25 or more animals or with 3 prior animal abuse convictions: 7 years in prison, 5 years of court-supervised probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $10,000.00 fine.
  • Breeders (“puppy mills”), pet shop owners, or a person with 5 or more animal abuse convictions: 2 years in prison, 5 years of court-supervised probation, and a $5,000.00 fine.

In addition to the penalties above, the judge is given the power to order psychiatric or psychological counseling at the defendant’s expense. Furthermore, the judge also has the ability to order consecutive sentencing with any other jail term arising out of the same transaction. Consecutive sentencing is serving one sentence in its entirety before beginning to serve the other sentence. You need a strong attorney for abuse, neglect, or cruelty to animal charges because consecutive sentencing is not possible with most crimes; however, it is permitted in animal cruelty cases.

Defendants are liable for any expenses incurred by veterinary treatment of animals that have been hurt. Defendants also may be ordered not to possess or own an animal for a certain period of time or forever. A person found in violation of the “do not own or possess” order is subject to immediate revocation of probation and almost certain jail time.

In addition to the jail and probation consequences of a conviction, there are indirect consequences as well. A person convicted of animal abuse will likely have great difficulty obtaining employment or advancing in a career.

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Defenses to Felony and Misdemeanor Charges

A knowledgeable and astute criminal defense expert sees defenses and explanations where a lesser attorney may not. For every charged crime, there is usually a potential defense. While no one wants to see animal abuse, and it surely does happen, a person may get charged when they had no intention of harming their animal or in cases where there was nothing more than a legitimate accident. The truth is that many times prosecutors go overboard with charging.

Inadequate housing – Many people don’t know what is healthy for an animal when it comes to a proper environmental shelter for an animal. An astute and experienced defense attorney will show if the client is being held to an unrealistic standard and did not intend to harm an animal.

Inadequate food, water, and veterinary care– Responsible pet owners try to anticipate and reasonably satisfy pets’ needs. If an animal has been starved or was distressed from thirst, criminal charges can be filed.

Physical punishment – Deliberately beating an animal or causing visible injuries will draw the unfettered wrath of the prosecutor and judge. A certain degree of corporal punishment is not illegal, such as spanking a dog with a rolled-up newspaper. However, if any type of injury is present, a defense attorney’s job is to mitigate the level of abuse charged and the ensuing punishment.  Even if serious or fatal injuries were inflicted on an animal, and even if evidence of guilt is overwhelming, there is always something a zealous and intelligent defense attorney can do to make the situation better. When there is no legal or factual defense, a great lawyer will convince the judge that help and treatment for the defendant are more appropriate than harsh punishment.

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Experienced Lawyers Defending Michigan’s Most Serious Charges

The passionate, experienced, and zealous defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges, including animal abuse or cruelty charges in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties and throughout Michigan. We have a well-deserved reputation for providing the highest caliber defense and aggressive representation while showing non-judgmental empathy and personalized care for each client.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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