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Laws on Animal Cruelty in Indiana 

Animal cruelty in Indiana is a grave offense, and under specific circumstances, can lead to felony charges. This stringent legal framework underscores the state’s commitment to the humane treatment of all living creatures and its zero-tolerance policy towards actions constituting torture, abandonment, neglect, and dog fighting. Consequently, anyone facing charges under the Indiana animal cruelty laws, as outlined in Indiana Code Title 35-46-3, should promptly seek the expertise of an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney. Indiana courts handle these animal cruelty charges with utmost seriousness, and without robust legal representation, your future could be at significant risk. 

For those in need of immediate legal counsel, contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our firm is led by two former deputy prosecutors who have dedicated their careers to defending and protecting the rights and futures of everyday Hoosiers. With comprehensive knowledge of Indiana’s animal cruelty laws, our criminal defense attorneys in Indiana can leverage their extensive experience in both prosecuting and defending such charges to secure the best possible outcomes for our clients. 

Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.

Indiana Animal Cruelty Laws  

Indiana Code Title 35-46-3 outline various offenses related to the mistreatment of animals. These laws, as highlighted below, are designed to protect animals from harm and ensure their humane treatment. They vary in seriousness, depending on the circumstances of the situation, from Class B misdemeanor offenses to various Level 6 felony offenses. Given this, it’s vital to have a strong understanding of each individual offense related to animal cruelty in Indiana, as well as the different factors that could result in the enhancement of charges.  

Abuse, Torture, or Mutilation of a Vertebrate Animal 

Under Indiana Code 35-46-3-12, knowingly or intentionally beating, tormenting, injuring, or otherwise harming an animal is considered to be animal cruelty in Indiana, a Class A misdemeanor. However, this offense can be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the offender has a previous, unrelated conviction for the same offense; or if the person committed the offense with the intent to threaten, intimidate, coerce, harass or terrorize a family or household member.  

In addition, a person may be charged with a Level 6 felony in Indiana for torturing or mutilating the vertebrate animal or for killing a domestic animal without consent of the owner. For the purposes of this law, torture and mutilation can include any actions that cause severe pain or suffering to the animal, including the administering or exposing a domestic animal to poison; destroying an animal by electrocution; or intentionally freezing or heating an animal to death.  

It is important to understand, however, that there are several statutory defenses to prosecution under this section of the Indiana animal cruelty laws. For instance, it is a defense that the accused person reasonably believes the conduct was necessary to prevent injury to themselves or another person; protect their property from destruction or substantial damage; or prevent a seriously injured vertebrate animal from prolonged suffering. It is also a defense that the accused person engaged in a reasonable and recognized act of training, handling, or disciplining the vertebrate animal.  

Laws on Animal Cruelty in Indiana, definitions

Neglect and Abandonment of a Vertebrate Animal 

In general, owners or caretakers are legally obligated to ensure the well-being of animals under their care. This often includes providing animals with the necessary food, water, shelter, or veterinary care.  

Under the Indiana animal cruelty laws in Indiana Code 35-46-3-7, a person who has a vertebrate animal in their custody and recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally abandons or neglects the animal commits animal cruelty in Indiana, a Class A misdemeanor. This offense may be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the offender has previous, unrelated offense under this chapter of Indiana law (unless the offense is Harboring a non-immunized dog).  

It should be noted, however, that it is a statutory defense to prosecution for abandonment that the person who had the animal in their custody reasonably believes that the animal was capable of surviving on its own.  

Animal Fighting Contests 

The Indiana animal cruelty laws specifically prohibit promoting, staging or participating in animal fighting contests. This includes dog fighting, cockfighting, or any similar activities where animals are pitted against each other for entertainment or gambling purposes. Under the Indiana laws on animal cruelty, a person may be charged with several offenses for animal fighting, including:  

  • Possession of Animal Fighting Paraphernalia: a Class B misdemeanor under Indiana Code 35-46-3-8.5, or a Class A misdemeanor if the offender has a previous, unrelated conviction for the same offense 
  • Promotion, Use, or Attendance with an Animal at an Animal Fighting Contest: a Level 6 felony under Indiana Code 35-46-3-9 
  • Attendance at an Animal Fighting Contest: a Class A misdemeanor under Indiana Code 35-46-3-10, or a Level 6 felony, if the person has a prior, unrelated conviction for an offense against animals (except for harboring a non-immunized dog).  

For the purpose of understanding the laws above, it should be noted that an “animal fighting contest” means a conflict between two or more animals that is NOT unorganized or accidental. In addition, “animal fighting paraphernalia” pertains to any equipment used to train or condition animals for participation in an animal fighting contest.  

Removal of Attack Dog’s Vocal Cords  

As clearly stated in Indiana Code 35-46-3-13, a person may be charged with animal cruelty in Indiana as a Class A misdemeanor if they knowingly or intentionally remove the vocal cords of a trained attack dog. However, it is a defense to prosecution that the accused person reasonably believed that the conduct was necessary to prevent a seriously injured dog from prolonged injury.  

Sexual Conduct with an Animal 

Finally, Indiana Code 35-46-3-14 criminalizes any form of sexual conduct with an animal. This is considered an egregious form of animal abuse called bestiality in Indiana, which is a Level 6 felony.  

Potential Penalties for Animal Cruelty in Indiana 

Understanding the potential penalties for animal cruelty offenses in Indiana is crucial for anyone facing such charges. The Indiana sentencing guidelines provide specific penalties for different levels of offenses, including Class B misdemeanors, Class A misdemeanors, and Level 6 felonies. Here is a detailed overview of the penalties associated with each offense level: 

Class B Misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, and up to $1,000 in fines 

Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 365 days in jail, and up to $5,000 in fines 

Level 6 Felony: Between six months and two and a half years in prison, with an advisory sentence of one year, and up to $10,000 in fines 

Collateral Consequences for Animal Cruelty in Indiana 

Beyond the immediate penalties of jail or prison time and fines, a conviction for animal cruelty can have other long-lasting repercussions: 

  • Criminal Record: A conviction will result in a permanent criminal record, which can affect employment opportunities, housing applications, and other aspects of daily life. In addition, those convicted of animal cruelty in Indiana as a felony would be stripped of critical civil rights, such as the ability to vote and possess or carry a firearm. In situations like these, most individuals will need to enlist the services of a gun rights restoration attorney in Indiana in order to recover such rights.  
  • Probation: In some cases, individuals may be placed on probation in Indiana, requiring compliance with specific conditions set by the court. 
  • Community Service: Courts may also mandate community service as part of the sentencing 
  • Prohibition on Animal Ownership: In cases involving the Indiana animal cruelty laws, it’s not uncommon for courts to prohibit offenders from owning or caring for animals in the future 

The Importance of Hiring an Indiana Criminal Defense Attorney 

Given the severe consequences associated with these charges, it is crucial for anyone accused of animal cruelty to seek experienced legal representation immediately. Skilled attorneys can help navigate the complexities of the legal system, advocate on your behalf, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome in your case. Here’s why having a skilled Indiana defense attorney by your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case: 

1. Expert Knowledge of the Law 

Indiana’s animal cruelty laws are detailed and specific, with varying degrees of severity and penalties. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer has in-depth knowledge of these laws and understands the nuances that can impact your case. This expertise is essential in building a strong defense and ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the legal process. 

2. Strategic Defense Planning 

An experienced attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case, identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence, and develop a strategic defense plan tailored to your situation. This might involve gathering witness statements, securing expert testimony, or uncovering procedural errors that could work in your favor. 

3. Negotiation Skills 

In many cases, a skilled criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges or penalties you face. This could mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor charge, or even result in a dismissal of charges. Effective negotiation can help minimize the impact on your life and future opportunities. 

4. Courtroom Experience 

If your case goes to trial, having an attorney with extensive courtroom experience is invaluable. They will know how to present evidence compellingly, cross-examine witnesses effectively, and persuasively argue on your behalf. Their familiarity with courtroom procedures and local judges can provide a significant advantage. 

5. Protecting Your Future 

A conviction for animal cruelty can lead to severe penalties, including jail or prison time, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record. This can affect your employment prospects, housing options, and even your ability to own pets in the future. An experienced Indiana defense lawyer will work tirelessly to protect your future, aiming to secure the best possible outcome in your case. 

Facing Animal Cruelty Charges in Indiana? 

Facing animal cruelty charges in Indiana is a serious matter that can have far-reaching consequences for your future, which is why hiring an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney is crucial. Their experience, strategic planning, and dedication to protecting your rights will likely make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.  

If you or someone you know is charged with animal cruelty, do not hesitate to contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

. Our firm employs some of the best criminal defense lawyers in Indiana, all of whom are familiar with the specific practices and procedures of courts throughout the state. Furthermore, as seasoned defense attorneys, they all understand just how overwhelming and stressful an experience like this can be. They’re here to be your guide, your advocate and your defender during this trying time. 

Article Name
Laws on Animal Cruelty in Indiana
This article is an overview of the laws on Animal Cruelty in Indiana
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Keffer HIrschauer LLP

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