For a long time, humankind considered pets and other animals as beneath them. However, as evident by the enactment of animal cruelty laws across the nation, this is no longer the case. 

If a person faces animal cruelty charges in Pennsylvania, it is important that he or she understands what those charges entail and the possible penalties for various offenses. The Pennsylvania SPCA details what acts constitute animal cruelty in the state. 

Definition of animal cruelty

The PA SPCA has jurisdiction in 23 counties throughout the state. Per the organization, the following offenses are grounds for animal cruelty charges: 

  • Animal neglect, which includes failure to provide food, water, clean and sanitary shelter, and necessary veterinary care 
  • Animal cruelty, which entails knowingly and recklessly mistreating, beating, abusing, overloading, torturing or abandoning an animal 
  • Transporting an animal in a cruel manner 
  • Animal mutilation and similar offenses 
  • Leaving a dog tethered and unattended for more than nine hours in a 24-hour period and without access to shade or water, or for longer than 30 minutes in extreme heat or cold 
  • Animal fighting or possessing animal fighting paraphernalia 
  • Abusing or taunting police animals 

A conviction pertaining to any one of the aforementioned offenses could result in serious consequences. 

Penalties for animal cruelty 

According to NBC Philadelphia, Governor Tom Wolf increased the penalties for animal abuse and cruelty from summary to high level offenses back in 2017. In some cases, though, neglect is still a summary offense that can result in up to 90 days in jail or a $300 fine. However, if the neglect causes the animal bodily harm or puts the animal at risk of harm, the offense is elevated to a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and up to $2,000 in fines. 

Cruelty is a second-degree misdemeanor that may result in a punishment of up to two years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Aggravated cruelty, which results in the death or serious bodily injury of an animal, is a third-degree felony. If convicted, an offender faces up to seven years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine.