Michigan Animal Neglect and Abuse Penalties

Because animals have no voice and are generally defenseless, a person accused of abuse can be vilified in court without a reputable and formidable defense lawyer.

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New Michigan Penalties For Animal Neglect

In November 2013, the Michigan Senate unanimously moved to toughen penalties for individuals who allegedly kill or torture animals and extend current rules against neglect or cruelty to breeders and pet shops. The move to toughen animal protection laws is part of a greater movement to charge and punish individuals accused of animal abuse and neglect. Anyone facing felony or misdemeanor charges involving the mistreatment of animals will want to familiarize themselves with the penalties for animal neglect and abuse.

Senate Bills 285 and 286 would create three degrees of punishment for people who knowingly kill, mutilate, or disfigure an animal.

  • 3rd-degree offenses would be punishable by up to four (4) years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, up to five (5) years of probation, and up to 500 hours of community service.
  • 2nd and 1st-degree offenses, in which a person killed or tortured a companion pet and/or intentionally committed the crime, would be punishable by up to seven (7) or 10 years, respectively, along with fines and up to five (5) years of probation.

Animal Cruelty Charges Are Taken Seriously by Law Enforcement

Jill Fritz, the Michigan Director of the Humane Society of the United States, testified in support of these bills and pointed to research showing a link between animal abuse and other types of criminal behavior. She is quoted as saying, “Increasing these penalties will help address the clear danger that animal abusers pose to society at large.”

The new legislation would also penalize breeders and pet shops for neglect or cruelty by increasing the maximum penalty of four (4) years in prison allowed under current law. Charges against breeders and pet shops may be charged with conspiracy charges and animal protection charges because the police will allege that all the employees were assisting one another in the crime.

It has also been reported that the Animal Legal Defense Fund has determined Michigan to be #3 out of all 50 states in the best laws to protect animals. Illinois and Oregon are #1 and 2. The ALDF cites Michigan’s existing strengths as felony penalties for abuse, neglect, fighting, abandonment and sexual assault, forfeiture, mental health evaluations and treatment, anger management, restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals, and strong animal fighting provisions, among other things.

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Exceptions to Animal Cruelty Laws

Michigan’s animal cruelty, neglect, and abuse laws do not apply to the legal killing or use of animals for specific purposes, including the following:

  • legal hunting, fishing, trapping, or wildlife control,
  • pest control,
  • standard farming practices, and
  • scientific research

Best Defense Against Animal Abuse and Cruelty Allegations

Anyone accused of animal abuse or neglect should contact experienced defense counsel immediately. Do not speak to the police or anyone other than your retained defense lawyer. Because the government will relentlessly pursue animal abuse charges, an aggressive criminal defense lawyer is necessary to get the best possible result. The defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. represent clients daily in state and federal courts throughout Michigan. We have an unparalleled track record of successfully representing and protecting our clients against all criminal charges. Our trial lawyers can negotiate for the dismissal or reduction in charges or fight for an acquittal at trial if that is the best option. Our attorneys and staff treat our clients with dignity and respect while providing the highest level of customer service possible.

Precharge Intervention and Consultation

Suppose you’ve been contacted by law enforcement regarding a complaint for animal abuse, neglect, torture, or killing. Is it possible to stop charges before they happen? Yes! Often, these rather egregious allegations stem from misunderstandings or misinformation. Law enforcement officers can jump the gun when someone reports the abuse of an animal. The danger of a police rush to justice is that the accused doesn’t get a fair and full investigation, detectives make adverse presumptions, and legitimate defense information is disregarded.

Furthermore, you must not speak to the police or investigators for any reason! The Miranda warnings state, “Anything you say CAN AND WILL be used against you.” The precharge representation and intervention attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can speak for you and on your behalf without the danger of your words or actions being misinterpreted, twisted, or taken out of context. If there is a way to negotiate a resolution without criminal charges, we will find it! The best way to avoid the harsh penalties for animal abuse is to avoid charges altogether.

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Defense Attorneys for Animal Abuse and Neglect Charges

Few crimes are more severe in a judge’s eyes than animal abuse and neglect. Likewise, prosecutors tend to go above and beyond in these prosecutions and seek maximum penalties. In the experience of the defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., the circumstances that gave rise to the charges are rarely simple or black and white. A great lawyer will humanize their client with the court and prosecution to ensure they are treated fairly. If the whole story is brought forth, including a full background, we can usually get the government to focus on rehabilitation, instead of punishment. Call us for a free consultation. We will help you understand the penalties for animal neglect and abuse. We will take the time to talk with you, treat you respectfully, and work with you to develop the best strategy to resolve your case favorably.

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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