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Animal Abuse Laws in Massachusetts

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

244 Brighton Avenue, Suite 105
Allston MA 02134


Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: (617) 254-8001

Animal abuse is treated very seriously in Massachusetts. Someone convicted of the crime can face multiple years in prison.

What Defines Animal Abuse and Cruelty?

Animal abuse and cruelty can include a wide variety of crimes against animals. Some common types of animal abuse can include:

  • Overdriving, overloading, and overworking an animal.
  • Torturing and tormenting an animal.
  • Depriving an animal of necessary food, water, or shelter.
  • Cruelly beating an animal.
  • Mutilating and killing an animal.
  • Cruelly using an animal in a race, game, or contest.
  • Using an animal as live bait except for bait as used in fishing.
  • Providing an unsanitary living environment.
  • Abandoning an animal.
  • Leaving an animal in a hot car or otherwise inhumane condition.

As you can see someone can be convicted of animal cruelty in Massachusetts for a variety of offenses ranging from neglect to mutilating an animal. For example, a pet owner who hoards 30 dogs could face animal cruelty charges for providing an unsanitary living condition even if the pet owner had the best intentions.

Please note that the laws are not limited to protection of cats or dogs and can include other animals like horses, cattle, pigs, snakes, etc. Also, the laws are not limited to punishing animal owners. So you could face animal cruelty charges even if you engage in prohibited behavior against a wild animal or the pet of a neighbor.

Penalties for Animal Cruelty

Someone convicted of animal cruelty faces significant penalties including up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. In addition, a court may remove any abused animal from your care.

In some circumstances, a court may also order that a person convicted of the crime to be prohibited from working in any capacity that would require coming into contact with an animal such as a veterinarian or pet store worker. So an individual could lose his job as a result of a conviction.

Malicious Killing of Animals 

Malicious killing of animals is considered a separate offense in Massachusetts. Generally whoever, willfully and maliciously “kills, maims, or disfigures” an animal or administers poison to the animal faces up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Dog Fighting Laws

One of the most common forms of animal abuse and cruelty may be dog fighting. The law generally provides that anyone who keeps or breeds a dog or other animal for the purpose of fighting can be charged with the crime of animal fighting.

In addition, spectators at a dog fight also face criminal penalties simply for attending.

The penalties for both crimes are the same and someone convicted of animal fighting or watching an animal fight faces up to five years imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

How a Massachusetts Animal Abuse Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with animal abuse and cruelty in Massachusetts, you should know that you face very serious penalties.

An attorney can help your defense by evaluating the evidence against you and reviewing possible defenses. An attorney may also suggest negotiating a plea deal and can work with prosecutors on securing a favorable deal.


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