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The Criminality of Animal Cruelty in Florida

In various sections of the law, animals are treated and defined in such a different manner that it may be hard to understand how animals fit into our lives. Animals, in family law, criminal law, civil law, etc., can be considered as objects, as property, as employees (for example, a horse on a farm or on the racing track), and even as a family member or a support buddy. In the last 100 years, amendments to the law and the way in which animals fit into our lifestyle have shifted over to provide animals with a certain level of rights, not unlike persons. Animal cruelty measures were put into place to provide that at the end of the day, an animal has the basic rights of that of a human and should be protected from pain and suffering and maltreatment.

Animals: Are they Property, Family, or Just “Dumb Living Creatures”?

Florida, since the 1880s, has had on the books some protections for animals, even though animals still are viewed as property, in particular when a theft is involved. According to a 1981 case Wilkerson v. State, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the lack of a defined definition for what constituted the type of animal protected from cruel or inhumane treatment did not make the Florida statute unconstitutionally vague. In other words, a statute is considered unconstitutionally vague where there is a dearth of information that makes it difficult for the citizen to understand which actions would be legal or illegal under the statute. In this case, however, the Supreme Court found that cruelty to animals statutes do not require an exhaustive list of animals on the protected list; it was enough to define animal as any living creature. This understanding, however, has led the legislature to be curious about certain activities and professions that cause harm to animals, such as exterminators, hunters, fishermen, and the legality of their actions.

Animal Cruelty in Florida

The Florida statute has been interpreted through several cases to include in particular any domestic animal that would be considered a pet, generally mammalian animals like dogs and cats, but also non-mammalians like turtles, birds, snakes, and other amphibians. Florida statute provides that animal cruelty occurs whenever a person unnecessarily torments, deprives of food, water, and other sustenance or shelter, unnecessarily mutilates, kills, leaves in a vehicle to cause the above-mentioned to happen to the animal, or otherwise treats the animal in a cruel and inhumane manner. Veterinarians are the only noted exception within the statute, holding harmless licensed veterinarians from criminal or civil liability due to their decision to administer services or care in the scope of their work.

Animal Cruelty Case Examples: Maximum Sentence of Five Year Sentence and Significant Fine

In Key Largo, a man was convicted for the felony of aggravated animal cruelty, whereby the court imposed a five-year sentence and a $5,000 fine for the brutal beating of his pit bull terrier and continued cruel harm he subjected his dog to bear. The dog ultimately had to be euthanized because of the continued pain and suffering the dog endured even after being rescued and receiving continued care after the traumatic incident. Another newsworthy story brought to light the issue of animal cruelty when a woman, on a Florida beach partying one night, proceeded to ride a sea turtle. A Snapchat photo was taken of the 20-year-old riding the sea turtle, and the woman is being held on a $2,000 bond. As a result of the abuse, the woman is facing a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison. As seen in these two examples, considerable prison time and fines are possible for acts of animal cruelty.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Animal cruelty has a lot of intricacies as it may be difficult to define what an animal is, what is considered abuse, and affirmative defenses in the case that the animal was attacking you. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can advocate on your behalf if you have been arrested for animal cruelty charges. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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