What is the legal definition of animal cruelty in Georgia? a. Cruelty to Animals (misdemeanor charge): A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he/she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect. O.C.G.A. §16-12-4
§Willful neglect means the intentional withholding of food and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or dehydration. O.C.G.A. §16-12-4
§Adequate food and water means food and water that is sufficient in an amount and appropriate for the particular type of animal to prevent starvation, dehydration, or a significant risk to the animal's health from a lack of food or water. O.C.G.A. §§4-11-2, 4-13-2
§Humane care of animals means, but is not limited to, the provision of adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter, and wholesome and adequate food and water, consistent with the normal requirements and feeding habits of the animal's size, species, and breed. O.C.G.A. §§4-11-2, 4-13-2
b. Aggravated Cruelty to Animals (felony charge): A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal's body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal… [paraphrased] except for conduct otherwise permitted under state or federal law. O.C.G.A. §16-12-4
Local law enforcement (municipal or county police department or county sheriff's department) enforces the criminal provisions of Cruelty to Animals, O.C.G.A. §16-12-4. An animal control officer is an individual authorized by local law or by the governing authority of a county or municipality to carry out the duties imposed by local ordinance and certain articles contained within the Georgia Animal Protection Act, O.C.G.A. §4-11-2
How do I report Animal Cruelty?
If an animal is being beaten, kicked, strangled or worse, call 911 immediately, do not wait. Officers need every second available to respond to cruelty so that vital evidence and case information can be collected. For your own safety and the safety of others, do not intervene in the behavior or interfere with the investigation. However, if you are able to photograph or video the behavior from a safe distance without directing aggression toward yourself, this is evidence that can be used in the prosecution of a crime. Some citizens reporting animal cruelty wish to remain anonymous. Please know that in most instances, without a witness there is no court case.
How do I report Animal Neglect?
Unfortunately, neglected animals are a problem in our community. Cats left to fend for themselves may experience poor nutrition, disease and unwanted litters. Dogs left chained with little socialization, no access to water and no shelter can suffer from health issues or become aggressive. While these cases need to be addressed quickly, they do not require the response time of a cruelty report. Some exceptions would be an animal that cannot stand, is having trouble breathing, appears to be starving or suffering directly from heat or cold due to lack of proper shelter. To report neglect, please contact Lowndes County Animal Welfare during normal business hours at 229-671-2760. As with cruelty cases, without a witness there is no case. While officers can often serve as the witness in neglect cases since they are able to speak to the conditions they witness, outside witnesses are still needed for some cases. Photographic and/or video evidence is also helpful in prosecuting neglect cases.
Animal cruelty is against the law. Be a voice for those that cannot speak for themselves.