The Criminal Defense Law Center of
West Michigan

Michigan Animal Cruelty Defense Attorneys

Anyone facing animal cruelty charges in any West Michigan court can expect their case to make the local media. The case will be filled with inflammatory rhetoric and with calls for the accused to face extremely tough punishment.

Law enforcement agents love doing press releases when a person is charged with animal cruelty. When a person’s house is searched, animals are often removed. There are times when animal owners are held to a very high and unreasonable standard of care. Given how local law enforcement agents act sometimes, one would think owners are going to school to be a veterinarian and have the kind of unlimited resources that the government has.

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Michigan Animal Cruelty Laws

Under Michigan law, there are actions against animals that are considered cruelty and illegal. A person who owns an animal must treat the animal under their care appropriately.  A person who owns an animal is not allowed to beat an animal. Tying an animal’s legs or feet during or while they are being transported is illegal. Animals that are being taken to the vet or to another house or farm must be secured in a cage that provides the animals with proper space.

Other acts that fall under animal cruelty include abandoning an animal and allowing an animal to deal with pain, neglect or torture. A dog is not allowed to be tethered if the tether is less than three times the length of the animal. The animal must also be attached to a harness or a collar that does not choke the animal.

Other prohibited acts include abandoning an animal except under extreme circumstances or negligently allowing animals to endure unnecessary torture, pain or neglect.  Notably, dogs also cannot be tethered unless the tether is at least 3 times the length of the animal and attached to a non-choking collar or harness.

Penalties For Animal Cruelty

A charge for animal cruelty that deals with one animal is a misdemeanor that has a maximum of 93 days in jail. The maximum fine is $1,000.00 and community service of up to 300 hours. If the violation deals with two or three animals or there was a death of an animal, a person will face a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail. The maximum fine is $2,000.00 and community service can go up to 300 hours.

Cases of animal cruelty that deal with four to ten animals is a two-year felony charge. A person who is convicted for this crime can face up to $2,000.00 and community service of up to 300 hours. It is also a felony charge if the cruelty deals with more than 10 animals. This felony charge carries with it up to four years in prison. The maximum fine is $5,000.00 and community service of up to 500 hours.

Penalties for Animal Torture

Any person who knowingly kills, tortures, maims, disfigures or mutilates an animal will be facing animal torture charges. A person who does any of these acts will face a felony charge that carries with it four years in prison. Fives can reach up to $20,000. Community service can go up to 500 hours. A person can also be ordered to get a psychological evaluation and counseling.

Dog Fighting Penalties

If a person owns or possess a dog that engages in fighting, they are facing up to four years in prison and a $5,000.00 dollar fine. The same penalties apply for cock fighting or other animals that engage in fighting. There can be a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 1,000 hours of community service.

Exceptions to Animal Cruelty Laws

Michigan’s animal cruelty laws don’t apply to the legal killing or use of animals for certain purposes, including:

  • legal hunting, fishing, trapping, or wildlife control
  • pest control, or
  • normal farming practices.
  • scientific research

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§750.50, 750.50b (2019)

Animal Hoarding and Abuse Cases

Many animal abuse charges come about because the animals are suffering from abusive condition, not physical abuse from the hand of the owner. An example of this is Michael Vick. He was a former NFL quarter back who was breeding dogs and training them to fight other animals. Another example are puppy mills, where people believe they are doing the right thing and love the animals they have been accused of abusing.

Shawn Haff will look at all the facts in these cases and guide our clients to seeking counseling designed to show them how to properly take care of the animals they love. We will gather experts to help our clients when it can help, and we will take on the prosecutor’s case head on! 

How to Defend Animal Cruelty Cases

Anyone who has been accused of engaging in animal cruelty needs to call Shawn at The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan. Shawn and his team of lawyers have the aggressive criminal defense lawyers needed to get you the best results possible. If you want to take your case to trial, we will fight for your acquittal. If you want to work out a plea deal, we will get you the best one possible. Besides our aggressive representation in court, we treat our clients with respect and give them the best customer service possible.

We know counselors that can provide our clients with the resources needed if they are facing mental health issues and we even know private investigators who can expertly gather more information needed to help you win your case.

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