Is animal cruelty a crime in Virginia?

Animal neglect and cruelty are serious offenses in Virginia that are punished harshly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime. If convicted, you could be sentenced to a jail or prison sentence and fined. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record. 

What Is the Crime of Animal Neglect? #

In the commonwealth, individuals have certain duties to care for their pet, which is referred to as a companion animal under the law. This includes providing:

  • Sufficient food and water
  • Adequate shelter that is properly cleaned
  • Sufficient space in an enclosure given the pet’s age, size, species, and weight
  • Adequate exercise
  • Sufficient care, treatment, and transportation
  • Treatment by a veterinarian when necessary to prevent disease transmission or the pet’s suffering

It is considered neglect of a pet to fail to provide this level care. This crime is a Class 4 misdemeanor and is punished by a fine of up to $250.

Animal Cruelty of a Cat or Dog Is a Felony Under a New Virginia Law #

Animal cruelty of an animal other than a dog or cat is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. Until recently, animal cruelty of a dog or cat was also a misdemeanor offense unless the pet died.

However, animal cruelty of a dog or cat became a Class 6 felony offense under a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2019. Under this statute, it is animal cruelty to do any of the following:

  • Torture a cat or dog
  • Cruelly and unnecessarily beat, maim, or mutilate a cat or dog

You could face these penalties if you are convicted of animal cruelty:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor: Up to 12 months in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500
  • Class 6 felony: Prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $2,500

Contact Us for the Legal Assistance You Need #

Have you been charged with pet neglect or animal cruelty in Midlothian, Chesterfield County, or Richmond? Contact Quest Law PLLC today to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will explain the charges you face, potential penalties, and how we can help you build a strong defense, so you achieve the best possible outcome. To get started, start a live chat to schedule your free consultation.