Many Floridians love animals. They purchase or adopt them as a pet, and the animal then quickly becomes part of the family. Unfortunately, not all pets are treated well. That was the case with Kristen Willoughby, a mother that was found living in a hotel with a 6-year-old child, four dogs, and five cats. Law enforcement found her living in squalor and while she was charged with child neglect, the child was not harmed. Three of the dogs were severely emaciated, and the hotel room was covered with urine and feces. Willoughby was charged with three counts of animal cruelty.
Not all animal cruelty cases rise to the level in this recent news story. Sometimes, a person may simply make a mistake, such as forgetting a dog that was tied up in the yard before they left for the day. Other times, innocent people are charged. If you have been charged with animal cruelty, it is essential that you know the basics of this offense.
Florida’s Law on Animal Cruelty
Florida law on animal cruelty is found in the Florida Statutes, Section 828.12. Under this law, a person can face charges if they unnecessarily torment, overload, or deprive an animal of necessary shelter or sustenance. A person can also be charged if they mutilate or kill an animal unnecessarily, or if they cause the same actions to be done. It is also a criminal offense to carry an animal in or upon a vehicle in any inhumane or cruel manner.
In most cases, defendants are often accused of animal cruelty when they confine an animal without sufficient exercise, water, or food. Another example of animal cruelty involves fighting, such as cockfighting or dogfighting, or when they do not properly care for an injured or sick animal. When a person is charged with mistreating multiple animals, they will face a separate charge for each, as in the recent story.
Penalties for a Conviction
Animal cruelty is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The penalty for most misdemeanors in the state is a maximum $1,000 fine and no more than one year in jail. However, the statute on animal cruelty outlines a statutory fine of no more than $5,000.
When a person is charged with aggravated animal cruelty, the offense is upgraded to a third-degree felony. Just as with a misdemeanor offense, the fine for a third-degree felony is usually $5,000. In cases of aggravated animal cruelty though, the fine is increased to $10,000.
It is also important to know that if convicted, your record cannot be sealed or expunged. Due to this, it is critical to speak to an Orlando criminal defense lawyer that can provide the defense you need to beat the charges.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Orlando Today
Animal cruelty charges are taken very seriously in Florida. If you have been charged, you need a strong defense and our Orlando criminal defense lawyers can provide it. At O’Mara Law Group, our skilled attorneys can determine the defense strategy most suitable for your case and use it to give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at 407-634-6604 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.