A recent article reported that a Phoenix man has been charged with 70 counts of “cockfighting.” When most folks think about animal cruelty, they might be alarmed at the thought of harming animals, but probably don’t think the law is particularly harsh when it comes to criminal charges. Well, those people would be wrong. Animal cruelty, in whatever form, is a serious offense in Arizona.
Criminal Laws Prohibiting Animal Cruelty
As you might expect, mistreating an animal can consist of a variety of acts. Arizona law covers a number of different variations of the crime of animal cruelty. They include intentional, knowing and/or reckless:
- Neglect or abandonment.
- Failure to provide medical attention to prevent suffering.
- Infliction of unnecessary physical injuries.
- Cruel mistreatment, that is, torture, infliction of serious physical injuries or killing an animal in a manner that causes extended suffering.
- Killing an animal belonging to or under the control of another person without legal consent.
The list goes on, but the above examples provide the essence of the crime. Animal cruelty is classified, subject to the particular section allegedly violated, as a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony.
Animal fighting (including cockfighting), on the other hand, is a class 5 felony, and even being present at most animal fights is a class 6 felony. Interestingly, presence at a cockfighting event is a class 1 misdemeanor. No explanation is apparent as to why attending a cockfight is classified less severely than attendance at other illegal animal fights.
Defenses to Animal Cruelty Laws
There are defenses to animal cruelty charges, and those defenses include, in the first instance, failure to possess the state of mind necessary for a conviction. In each case, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the act for which the defendant is charged was done knowingly, intentionally or recklessly, depending upon the particular section of the law that is involved.
Finally, and notwithstanding around half a dozen different laws criminalizing the killing of various animals, animal hunting is a defense a charge of animal cruelty.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington St #2240
Phoenix, AZ 85004