In recent years, Rhode Island lawmakers have begun to crack down on so-called animal abusers.  This blog explains what is included in the animal cruelty statutes, what the penalties are for committing an animal abuse crime, and details some new legislation that would create an “animal abuse registry.”

What is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty is best defined as the infliction by omission or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal.

This includes the following in Rhode Island:

  • Overdriving an animal
  • Overloading an animal
  • Overworking an animal
  • Torturing an animal
  • Tormenting an animal
  • Beating an animal
  • Mutilating an animal
  • Killing an animal
  • Willfully failing to provide an animal with proper food, drink, shelter, or protection from the weather

What are the Penalties for Animal Cruelty in Rhode Island?

First Offense:

  • Misdemeanor
  • Imprisonment for up to 11 months
  • Fine of $50- $500

Second or Subsequent Offense within 10 years:

  • Felony
  • Imprisonment for up to six (6) years
  • Fine of $500 to $5,000
  • 100 hours of community service

Penalties for Cruelty Resulting in the Death of an Animal:

  • Imprisonment for up to five (5) years
  • Fine up to $1,000
  • 50 hours of community service

Anyone convicted of animal cruelty forfeits all rights to ownership of the animal in question and is also prohibited from living with or owning another animal for five (5) years for a misdemeanor conviction and fifteen (15) for a felony conviction.

Has Rhode Island Enacted Legislature That Requires Persons Caring for Animals To Report Suspected Animal Abuse To The Authorities?

Yes. In July 2018, Rhode Island lawmakers passed House Bill 7986 which states that any Rhode Island licensed veterinarian, veterinarian technician, animal shelter, animal kennel or other person entrusted with the care or custody of an animal shall report to any police department (local or state), animal control officials or officers of private organizations devoted to the humane treatment of animals, the condition of any animal that they believe to be abandoned, neglected, or abused.

The Bill’s sponsor, Representative William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) states, “animals have no voice of their own so it is imperative that people who work with animals are knowledgeable about and report on cases of suspected neglect and abuse.  There are far too many cases of animal abuse in our state and this bill is another tool for law enforcement to hold those that would hurt defenseless animals accountable for their crimes.”

What are the Penalties for Failure to Report Animal Abuse?

Any party who fails to report such conditions shall be fined up to $500.00 dollars.

What is the “Animal Abuse Registry”?

In 2019, Rhode Island law makers introduced a bill that would create an “animal abuse registry.” This online registry would identify individuals who are convicted of animal abuse crimes and therefore prevent them from “adopting, purchasing, or otherwise obtaining animals from any animal shelter, pet seller, or other person or entity involved in the exchange of animals by adoption, sale, or other means.”

Anyone convicted of an animal abuse crime would be required to register within five (5) days of their conviction or release from prison, pay a $125 fee to the Department of the Attorney General (AG), and provide the AG with their name, address, date of birth, and a photograph.

Penalties Relative to the Animal Abuse Registry

The Animal Abuse Registry bill proposes several penalties for those who violate it.

First, any “animal abuse offender” who fails to register, would be guilty of a misdemeanor.  This would carry the following penalties:

  • Prison for up to one (1) year
  • Fine of up to $1,000

Second, any “animal abuse offender” who possesses, owns, adopts or purchases an animal would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the following penalties:

  • Prison for up to one (1) year
  • Fine of up to $1,000

Finally, any animal shelter, pet seller or other individual or entity that violates the law by allowing an animal abuser to buy or adopt an animal would be guilty of a violation and subject to a fine not to exceed one thousand ($1,000) dollars.

If you or someone you know is being charged with Animal Cruelty in Rhode Island, feel free to contact the skilled Rhode Island criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira Law today. Call us now (401) 245-5100.