What You Need to Know about Texas’ Harsh Animal Cruelty Law
You come home from a long day at work. You’re always a little bit on edge because you know your neighbors let their dog run loose.
And you know he’s not the nicest dog in the world. You’ve done the right thing and reported your neighbor to the police, but none of your reports seem to change their behavior.
You see the dog running around your property and feel like it’s a threatening situation for you and your family. So, you take action and shoot the dog, believing you are acting in self-defense.
Sounds good. End of story, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In Texas, you may have committed an act of animal cruelty.
Texas’ Animal Cruelty Law is Politically Loaded, and Isn’t Always Fair or Just
I don’t like to do anything less than giving you the truth. But it’s the fact this law doesn’t treat humans fairly.
Now, if you starve your animals and let them catch diseases, that’s one thing. And it’s not the kind of act I’m arguing against.
You can take what seems to be completely fair and reasonable action – and still find yourself accused of animal cruelty.
And here’s the thing – if the district attorney’s “specialized prosecution” team can show you used a deadly weapon during the act, you can sit in prison for a minimum of 2 years (up to 10) and up to a $10,000 fine.
What’s even more outrageous is the fact these “specialized prosecution” units get funded by special interest groups. Do you really think they’re looking for true justice? Or, are they biased and trying to prove the rightness of their own cause?
And another point about these “specialized prosecution” units is they have almost no trial experience whatsoever. Yep, that’s right – none.
So if they don’t have any trial experience, what sense does it make for them to be prosecuting your case?
Where’s the justice in that for you?
And to stack the odds against you even further, some liberally-minded jurors believe using a weapon against an animal for any reason (including self-defense) constitutes animal cruelty. Get enough of these people on your jury, and you’ve got no chance of walking away with a “not guilty” verdict.
Think That’s Enough to Go Up Against? Well, There’s More!
It’s no secret our state loves to be tough on crime. Texas’ animal cruelty law is deliberately written vaguely so it favors the State of Texas.
Even if you were the one attacked by an animal, you are not defended by section 9.31 of the Texas Penal Code. That law reads that you “…knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the force was used…”
Notice that the law reads “person.” It does not say “non-human” or “animal.” So therefore, it has no relevance whatsoever to animal cruelty cases.
If all that’s not enough, because the State of Texas knows they have the law on their side, they only give you absurdly long penitentiary sentence offers!
A Case Example
Right now, there’s the current case of Robert Prichard. Prichard claims his pit bull, Candy, attacked him and that he acted in self-defense.
To defend himself, Prichard hit Candy multiple times with a shovel and then tossed her into a swimming pool, where she drowned.
Unfortunately, Prichard made some inconsistent statements regarding the reason Candy attacked him. At one time, he told police he acted in self-defense after the dog damaged his patio furniture. At another, he said Candy bit him, which led to his retaliation.
Now, I don’t know the truth. But because Prichard used a deadly weapon (a shovel), he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.
And who knows what the makeup of the jury is!
This man could get convicted of animal cruelty if his lawyer doesn’t know to thoroughly question members of the jury.
That’s the difference an experienced, competent lawyer makes.
Animal Cruelty Punishments You Can Face
10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine are the maximum punishments you can experience if convicted of animal cruelty.
You could also get these punishments if convicted:
- Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in prison and a $4,000 fine
- State Jail Felony: From 180 days in jail to up to 2 years and a $10,000 fine
Where Does Animal Cruelty Law Come From?
It’s actually fairly recent. “Loco’s Law,” as it is known in layman’s terms, became law on September 1, 2001. Loco was a puppy whose eyes were intentionally gouged out. Before “Loco’s Law,” the State of Texas did not consider animal cruelty a crime.
House Bill 653 and Senate Bill 1724 were the two documents officially passed to create this law.
This law applies only to domesticated house pets and livestock. In that respect, Texas’ animal cruelty law is narrower than other states. For example, it does not protect circus animals, wild animals, and animals used in experiments.
There are also specific provisions against dog fighting in section 42.10 of the Texas Penal Code. Specifically, you cannot cause dogs to fight, attend dog fights as a spectator, or participate in a dog fighting operation.
Cockfighting is also a felony which carries up to a 2-year jail sentence and up to a $10,000 fine.
If you’d like to learn more about animal cruelty legal code, here’s a direct resource.
And remember, if you find yourself accused of animal cruelty, make sure you contact a professional criminal defense attorney. It’s not worth it to risk your freedom with an inexperienced attorney who doesn’t know the ins and outs of the legal system. Read more about Animal Cruelty Attorney In Plano Texas