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Chapter 7 - Various VT Laws Dealing With Animals

Title 13: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
Chapter 8: Humane and Proper Treatment Of Animals

352. Cruelty to animals

A person commits the crime of cruelty to animals if the person:

  1. intentionally kills or attempts to kill any animal belonging to another person without first obtaining legal authority or consent of the owner;

    VACTF Notes: Even with owner consent, the method of killing the animal must not cause "undue pain or suffering", which is a felony offense under Section 352 (a), Aggravated Cruelty to Animals.

  2. overworks, overloads, tortures, torments, abandons, administers poison to, cruelly beats or mutilates an animal, exposes a poison with intent that it be taken by an animal;

    VACTF Notes: Determining whether an animal has been "overworked" or "overloaded" can be made only on a case-by-case basis considering the age, strength, and health of the animal, the weight of the load and the duration of the load. The action becomes cruel when more is being demanded of the animal than could reasonably be expected under the circumstance;

    • Keep in mind that the definition of "torture" and "torment" (Def. 10) provides for criminal charges through "omission" or "neglect" as well as physical acts "whereby pain, suffering or death is caused or permitted". "Torture" generally reflects physical pain, and " torment" refers to emotional or psychological stress;

    • To "beat" an animal means to strike him, while to "mutilate" means to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or other essential body part. "Cruelly" indicates that the actions were being done under unjustified circumstances, or under otherwise justifiable circumstances but in an unjustifiable manner;

    • Exposing poison with the intent that it be taken by an animal is an offense, even if the poison is not consumed.

  3. ties, tethers, or restrains an animal, either a pet or livestock, in a manner that is inhumane or is detrimental to its welfare. Livestock and poultry husbandry practices are exempted;

  4. deprives an animal which a person owns, possesses or acts as an agent for, of adequate food, water, shelter, rest or sanitation, or necessary medical attention, or transports an animal in overcrowded vehicles;

    VACTF Notes: In Section 352 (4), depriving an animal of adequate food and water is concerned with maintaining the health of an animal, and includes such acts as removal of food or drink from the animal's reach, physically barring the animal's access to such items, and the owner's affirmative duty to provide such items. Title 13 lacks a definition for "adequate", which makes it critical for humane officers to be familiar with the signs of inadequate nutrition, sanitation, and shelter in the animals involved in their investigation. (See also Chapter 6, "Animal Care Practices for Some Common Animals.");

    - Sections 352 (3) and (4) are "strict liability offenses", which means it is not necessary to prove intent in order to prosecute. This is in contrast to other sections which require that the person act intentionally. For example, Section 352 (2) requires that the state prove the person intended for the animal to take the poison in a poisoning case. In all cases, however, the state must prove that the person's actions were voluntary. The state would not prosecute someone who fails to properly care for an animal because of an unexpected turn of events like a natural disaster or a medical emergency (See also 'State v. Gadreault' on page 245 of Appendix III, Forms and Supplies List)

  5. owns, possesses, keeps or trains an animal engaged in an exhibition of fighting, or possesses, keeps or trains any animal with intent that it be engaged in an exhibition of fighting, or permits any such act to be done on premises under his or her charge or control;

  6. acts as judge or spectator at events of animal fighting or bets or wagers on the outcome of such fight;

  7. as poundkeeper, officer, agent of a humane society or as an owner or employee of an establishment for treatment, board or care of an animal, knowingly receives, sells, transfers or otherwise conveys an animal in his or her care for the purpose of research or vivisection;

  8. intentionally torments or harasses an animal owned or engaged by a police department or public agency of the state or its political subdivisions, or interferes with the lawful performance of a police animal;

  9. knowingly sells, offers for sale, barters or displays living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl which have been dyed, colored or otherwise treated so as to impart to them an artificial color, or fails to provide poultry with proper brooder facilities;

  10. uses a live animal as bait or lure in a race, game or contest, or in training animals in a manner inconsistent with Part 4 of Title 10 or the rules adopted thereunder. (Added 1989, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.), 2; amended 1997, No. 130 (Adj. Sess.), 7.)

    VACTF Notes: Sections 352 (1) through (4) and (7) through (10) are misdemeanor offenses, while Sections 352 (5) and (6), related to animal fighting, are felony offenses (see Section 353(a) for penalties).

352a. Aggravated cruelty to animals

A person commits the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals if the person:

  1. Kills an animal by intentionally causing the animal undue pain or suffering; or (Added 1997, No. 130 (Adj. Sess.), 8.; Added 2004, No. 120)

  2. Intentionally, maliciously, and without just cause tortures, mutilates, or cruelly beats an animal. (Added 2004, No. 120)

VACTF Notes: Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony offense which is applicable when the animal dies from its injuries.

352b. Rules; affirmative defense

  1. An enforcement officer implementing the provisions of section 352 or 352a of this title shall be guided by rules established by the commissioner.

  2. Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, an affirmative defense to prosecution under section 352 or 352a of this title may be raised when:

    1. except for vivisection or research under section 352(7) of this title, the defendant was a veterinarian whose conduct conformed to accepted veterinary practice for the area, or was a scientist whose conduct was a part of scientific research governed by accepted procedural standards subject to review by an institutional care and use committee;

    2. the defendant's conduct was designed to control or eliminate rodents, ants or other common pests on the defendant's own property;

    3. the defendant was a person appropriately licensed to utilize pesticides under chapter 87 of Title 6;

    4. the defendant humanely euthanized any animal as a representative of a duly organized humane society, animal shelter or town pound according to rules of this subchapter, or as a veterinarian destroying animals under chapter 193 or sections 3511 and 3513 of Title 20; or

    5. a state agency was implementing a rabies control program.

  3. An affirmative defense to a charge of abandonment under section 352 of this title shall not be recognized where a person abandons an animal at or near an animal shelter or veterinary clinic, farm or other place of shelter, without making reasonable arrangements for the care of the animal.

    VACTF Notes: Section 352b (c) makes it illegal to drop off or abandon an animal at any of the sites listed without making specific arrangements for the care of the animal, regardless of the expectation that care would be provided at the site.

  4. The authority to enforce this chapter shall not be construed in a manner inconsistent with the animal control or disease control eradication programs in Title 6, or chapters 191, 193, 194 and 195 of Title 20 or the provisions of part 4 of Title 10, or the rules adopted thereunder. (Added 1997, No. 130 (Adj. Sess.), 9.)

^ 351. Definitions 353. Degree of offense; sentencing upon conviction »

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