Can I be charged with animal cruelty if there is no evidence and the dog is not hurt or injured in any way?

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Can I be charged with animal cruelty if there is no evidence and the dog is not hurt or injured in any way?

Police responded to a “domestic violence” call and made an arrest. During an altercation, I picked up a small dog to move her away from us and she accidentally bumped heads. The police said there would be no charge but later added it to my report. I am concerned about this as it is a felony charge but I in no way, shape, or form intended or did injure or hurt the animal – she didn’t squeal or cry and showed no indication of any injury. The police did not even inspect the dog; instead, they just pet her and commented on how cute she was.

Asked on November 14, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

To be convicted of a crime, including animal cruelty, generally requires criminal intent (called mens rea)--e.g. an intent to hurt the animal, or at least an indifference to its suffering. So, for example, accidentally running over a dog that dashed into the street in front of your car might result in the owner suing you for the dog's value--but would not be animal cruelty. So unless there is evidence of some criminal intent to hurt this dog, you should not be charged; and if charged (because sometimes people are charged even when there is not enough evidence to ultimately support a conviction), you should not be convicted.


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