Chicago Animal Cruelty Defense Lawyers

Abusing animals is illegal in some manner or another in every state across the county. In Illinois, there are very specific and extensive protections for animals as well. Whether you live in Chicago, Arlington Heights or any other city in Illinois, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony depending upon the particular circumstances of the cruelty allegations.

The severity of the criminal charges placed against an alleged abuser may vary widely and factors which could influence the level of charges may include questions of where you tethered your dog, the temperature outside or your particular behavior towards the animal. It is imperative that you know what Illinois state law considers to be an act of animal cruelty and how those restrictions might affect the chances of you being charged or even convicted of an offense such as this. If you have been accused of harming an animal, the Chicago animal cruelty defense attorneys can help you fight the charge against you. Contact us at (312) 644-0444 for a free legal consultation.

What is Animal Cruelty?

Under Illinois law, you could be charged with animal cruelty, also known as “cruel treatment” if you:

  • Beat, starve, torment, or overwork a domestic or wild animal
  • Abandon an animal to the point that it could get injured, starve, suffer, or require the assistance of animal control
  • Leave pet cats and dogs in extreme weather conditions that could harm them, such as extreme heat or hypothermic conditions (As of 2019, expansions under Illinois animal cruelty laws allow law enforcement to take dogs and cats into protective custody if they have been left out in dangerous weather conditions)

It is also against the law to use animals to fight for entertainment, sports betting, and/or profiting off of any recordings. This includes breeding animals for fighting purposes. Violations of the law prohibiting “Depiction of Animal Cruelty” are subject to misdemeanor penalties, although these may be charged as felonies under some circumstances.

Aggravated Cruelty

While these crimes are generally classified as misdemeanor charges, animal cruelty could also be charged as a felony crime if the accused had any other prior convictions for such a crime, if the animal was tortured, or if the cruelty was intentional and led to the animal’s death. When aggravated circumstances such as these are present, the crimes in Illinois are known as “Aggravated Cruelty” or “Animal Torture” which would include the poisoning of animals or anything which is intended to cause suffering, pain or agony to an animal. Animal cruelty laws do not apply to hunting, fishing, trapping, or euthanasia done for legitimate reasons.

If authorities investigate you for animal cruelty and discover some form of animal abuse regarding your own pet, under some circumstances you may receive a notice giving you the opportunity to correct the mistreatment. Should law enforcement then find that you have not taken steps to prevent further mistreatment, they may remove the animal. Any animal that is found in a life-threatening situation may, however, be taken away from you without notice, although by law, the enforcement officer is required to leave information that the animal has been taken into temporary custody.

Other Animal Cruelty Penalties

Depending on the facts of the particular allegations, a person convicted of cruelty related charges may be ordered to undergo a psychiatric or psychological examination and associated treatment, community service, court order fines, jail, penitentiary time, seizure of their animals or additional penalties if the abuse was done in the presence of children.

Defenses For Animal Cruelty in Chicago

When you meet with your defense attorney, you will go over possible defenses for your actions and your attorney will help determine whether the facts truly constituted abuse. Your attorney may attempt to demonstrate that your actions were an act of self-defense when confronted with an aggressive animal or that an animal’s death was required to relieve an animal of its suffering. Your attorney may also try to show that the abuse was unintentional, as the intent of the accused is very important when it comes to proving animal abuse in Illinois. If you are convicted of animal cruelty, you may be later prohibited from having the case expunged from your record.

Being a pet owner is an important responsibility. To avoid potential animal cruelty charges, make sure that you are checking the weather when you take your pets outside so that you don’t leave them in hot cars or keep them outside in cold conditions. Make sure to tether your pets properly so that they do not get entangled or hurt themselves with a leash. You should always endeavor to provide enough food, water, shelter, and veterinary care for your animals so that you can avoid being charged with animal neglect.

Speak to Our Experienced Criminal Defense Team

If you are accused or charged with animal cruelty, contact the Chicago defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC for more information. We have been helping people charged with serious offenses for over 25 years. We can explain how local authorities interpret animal cruelty laws and help you defend yourself against such charges. Call our attorneys for information at (800) 996-4824 and to receive a free initial consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : September 6, 2023