What Is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty refers to the deliberate mistreatment or harm inflicted upon animals. This can take various forms, such as neglect, abuse, or exploitation, and occurs across different settings, including domestic environments, agricultural practices, and entertainment industries. It encompasses actions like the neglect of pets, the confinement of animals in inadequate conditions, and the use of animals for entertainment purposes, often involving coercion and suffering.

Addressing animal cruelty requires a multifaceted approach involving advocacy, education, and policy changes. It involves advocating for stricter laws and regulations to protect animals from harm and ensuring their welfare is prioritized. Additionally, raising awareness about the ethical considerations surrounding animal treatment and promoting responsible ownership practices are essential components of prevention efforts. By fostering empathy and compassion towards animals and promoting ethical treatment, we can work towards a society that values and respects all living beings.

Animal Cruelty Defined by: Title IV of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice

4:22-17. Cruelty; disorderly persons offense

a. It shall be unlawful to:

  1. Overdrive, overload, drive when overloaded, overwork, abuse, or needlessly kill a living animal or creature;
  2. Cause or procure, by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature, any of the acts described in paragraph (1) of this subsection to be done;
  3. Inflict unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature, by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature; or leave the living animal or creature unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature; or
  4. Fail, as the owner or as a person otherwise charged with the care of a living animal or creature, to provide the living animal or creature with necessary care.

b.

  1. A person who violates subsection a. of this section shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense. Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:43-3 to the contrary, for every conviction of an offense pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection a. of this section, the person shall be fined not less than $250 nor more than $1,000, or be imprisoned for a term of not more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the court; and for every conviction of an offense pursuant to paragraph (3) or (4) of subsection a. of this section, the person shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $2,000, or be imprisoned for a term of not more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the court.
  2. If the person who violates subsection a. of this section has a prior conviction for an offense that would constitute a violation of subsection a. of this section, the person shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
  3. A person who violates subsection a. of this section shall also be subject to the provisions of subsections e. and f. and, if appropriate, subsection g., of this section.

c. It shall be unlawful to purposely, knowingly, or recklessly:

  1. Torment, torture, maim, hang, poison, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, cruelly abuse, or needlessly mutilate a living animal or creature;
  2. Cause bodily injury to a living animal or creature by failing to provide the living animal or creature with necessary care, whether as the owner or as a person otherwise charged with the care of the living animal or creature; or
  3. Cause or procure an act described in paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection to be done, by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature.

d.

  1. A person who violates paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subsection c. of this section shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree , except that the person shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree if:(a) the animal or creature dies as a result of the violation ;(b) the animal or creature suffers serious bodily injury as a result of the violation; or(c) the person has a prior conviction for an offense that would constitute a violation of paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subsection c. of this section.
  2. A person who violates any provision of subsection c. of this section shall also be subject to the provisions of subsections e. and f. and, if appropriate, subsection g., of this section.

e. For a violation of this section, in addition to imposing any other appropriate penalties established for a crime of the third degree, crime of the fourth degree, or disorderly persons offense, as the case may be, pursuant to Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, the court shall impose a term of community service of up to 30 days, and may direct that the term of community service be served in providing assistance to the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, or any other recognized organization concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals or the humane treatment and care of animals, or to a municipality's animal control or animal population control program.

f. The court also shall require any violator of this section to pay restitution, including but not limited to, the monetary cost of replacing the animal if the animal died or had to be euthanized because of the extent of the animal's injuries, or otherwise reimburse any costs for food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care or treatment, or other costs, incurred by the owner of the animal, if the owner is not the person committing the act of cruelty, or incurred by any agency, entity, or organization investigating the violation, including but not limited to the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, any other recognized organization concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals or the humane treatment and care of animals, a local or State governmental entity, or a kennel, shelter, pound, or other facility providing for the shelter and care of the animal or animals involved in the violation.

g. If a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent for an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a disorderly persons offense , crime of the fourth degree, or crime of the third degree pursuant to this section, the court also shall order the juvenile to receive mental health counseling by a licensed psychologist or therapist named by the court for a period of time to be prescribed by the licensed psychologist or therapist.In addition to the above cruelty statues, Title IV also contains other provisions outlawing fighting or baiting of animals, abandonment of domestic pets, transporting animals in an inhumane manner, sale of lame horses, as well as several other illegal activities.

Recognizing Animal Distress

Please note, the following has been provided to assist the public in recognizing signs that an animal is in distress and requires assistance.  This is not an exhaustive list and if there is any concern about an animal in distress, please act accordingly.

  1. Thin and emaciated:  Extremely thin, rib bones and hip bones are visible. This could indicate starvation or prolonged illness.
  2. Little to no access food, water, or shelter:  All companion, farm and captive wildlife should have access to food, water and shelter from the elements at all times.
  3. Wounded or injured:  The animal may have an obvious wound or be limping.  The animals owner may also be physically abusing the animal by hitting or kicking.
  4. Coat in poor condition:  Could indicate a flea or tick infestation. Timely vet care should be rendered.
  5. Hair badly matted:  Can cause distress to an animal.  Can be the result of lack of grooming or general cleanliness.  Matted animals is often seen in hoarding situations.
  6. Overgrown or neglected nails or hooves:  Can cause distress to an animal.  Can be the result of neglect and lack of grooming.  Often seen in hoarding situations.
  7. Untreated infections or illness:  Timely vet care should be rendered.  Can be fatal if left untreated.