Animal Cruelty

The Law: Federal

In the US, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) of 1996 is the primary federal law concerned with animal care and conditions. To date, AWA has been amended six times, with the most recent being in 2007. Most of the amendments have been due to increasing awareness and louder campaigns from animal rights groups.

Nonetheless, it has been the subject of overt criticism by animal rights groups, who believe AWA should be more stringent. Particularly, the groups have questioned the exclusion of

  • Animals bred for research—mice, rats, and birds;
  • Cold-blooded animals; and
  • Animals primarily raised for fiber and food

In any case, AWA is the only federal law that currently covers the treatment of animals in a variety of conditions—transport, exhibition, by dealers, and in research. Supplementary bylaws have been enacted in form of guidelines, laws, and policies with more coverage of species or conditions for raising and using animals. The Animal Welfare Act serves as the baseline—minimum acceptable standards—on which these supplementary bylaws are promulgated.

The Law: The States


Animal cruelty laws vary widely between states, almost to the chagrin of interested non-governmental organizations and concerned individuals. In light of this disparity, the Animal Legal Defense Fund releases a ranking of the general comprehensiveness and relative strength of animal protection laws of all states in the country. This report ranking is released annually.

According to the report of 2013, the top five states with the strongest animal protection laws, in increasing order of strength, were California, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, and Illinois. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in decreasing order of strength, were Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Wyoming.


In 2002, November 5 to be precise, the Florida constitution was amended to ban the confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates. This modification to the constitution was due to “Amendment 10” getting a for majority vote of 55% margin.

Later in 2003, California instituted a ban on declawing of house cats.

In 2004, a proposal was put forward for a ban on “cruelty to bovines” by a Florida legislator: It wasn’t accepted by a simple majority of votes and so did not become law. If it had been passed into law, the ban called for any person who for a wide spectrum of reasons—entertainment, sport, practice, trips, intentional fells, or otherwise—causes a cow to lose its balance or fall by any of several tactical means—dragging, roping, lassoing, or otherwise touching the tail of the cow—be tried for committing a misdemeanor of the first degree.

In 2007, declawing of house cats was banned on all grounds except for medical reasons in Norfolk, Virginia.

Across the years, several states have considered or enacted laws with categorical support of humane farming.

Notably in New York and Massachusetts, the fight against animal cruelty have taken commendable turns as agents of humane associations and societies may be appointed as special officers to enforce laws illegalizing animal cruelty.

The Law: Animal Cruelty Videos

Scores pertaining to the production, proliferation, and possession of videos depicting animal cruelty are currently settled in the courts. This is the reality despite the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 criminalizing these conducts as obscenity.

The first notable court case that nullified the legality of the 2010 ACVP Act was the United States v. Stevens. The verdict held that possession of videos depicting animal cruelty was unconstitutional.

Only recently in 2013, the verdict of Sim Lake, the Texas Federal Court Judge, went further to assert that the 2010 ACVP Act is in violation of the First Amendment.


Acts such as rodeo sports, ear cropping, and tail docking and a dozen other similar acts are sometimes condoned and largely legal. In the US, about 46 of 50 states have followed through with establishing felony penalties for some form of animal abuse.

However, penalties for animal cruelty can be minimal, if at all pursued. Furthermore, animal cruelty is commonly charged in most jurisdictions as a misdemeanor offense. In California, the theoretical estimate of a felony conviction for animal cruelty could be as much as a 25-year sentence to as high as a life sentence, due in part to a practice—the three-strikes law—that increases sentences if the offender has had prior felony convictions.

Broward Criminal Lawyer Kenneth Padowitz Will Aggressively Defend Your Freedom

Strategic Criminal Defense

If you have been charged with Animal Cruelty or a similar crime, or believe you may be charged sometime in the near future, call Broward criminal lawyer, Kenneth Padowitz, Esq. to discuss your situation. Kenneth Padowitz is an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney with trial-proven results from cases across the United States. We handle cases throughout Broward County and all of South Florida, including: Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Miami, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Parkland. Don’t let this accusation rob you of your freedom. Contact Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. today to discuss this important matter.