Cruelty to animals is illegal in Arizona, as it is across the country. The animal protection laws in Arizona are less detailed than those in many states, but they cover the basic forms of abuse and neglect. Below, we’ve summarized the most important laws that pet owners and animal lovers should know about.
Animal Abuse and Neglect
In Arizona, animal cruelty includes intentional or reckless:
- cruel mistreatment, neglect, or abandonment
- unnecessary injury, and
- failure to provide medical attention that’s needed to prevent lengthy suffering.
The crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific conduct and motivation, as well as the severity of the injury resulting from neglect or abandonment. You can defend yourself against criminal charges if you put out poison on your property that was:
- meant for a dog who had already killed or wounded livestock, or to protect livestock from any predatory animal, as long as you posted warning signs; or
- placed next to buildings for rodent control.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 2910.)
Rescuing Pets from Hot Cars
It’s a misdemeanor in Arizona to leave an animal unattended in a car, whether intentionally or recklessly, under conditions that are likely to lead to the animal’s injury or death. Law enforcement officers or animal control agents are allowed to use reasonable force to break into cars to rescue animals in these conditions. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2910(A)(7), (D).)
In 2017, Arizona joined the handful of states that allow other bystanders to break into locked cars to rescue pets in distress. In order to be protected from liability in civil lawsuits for their actions, rescuers must:
- sincerely believe that the animals are in immediate danger of injury or death
- contact authorities (such as animal control or law enforcement) before doing anything
- break into the car—using the least amount of force necessary—only if there’s no other way to rescue the pet, and
- stay with the pet until an officer or emergency responder arrives.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-558.02.)
Organized Animal Fighting
It’s a felony in Arizona to participate in animal fighting, from owning or training the animals to watching a fight. However, being a spectator at a cockfight is only a misdemeanor. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-2910.01-2910.04.)
Speaking With a Lawyer
If you’ve been accused of animal cruelty—or you’re worried about possible charges—it’s a good idea to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney experienced in this area should be able to explain:
- details on relevant state laws
- how local authorities tend to interpret those laws
- ordinances in your local community that may apply to your situation
- how you might recover your pet if authorities have already taken it, and
- any defense you might have to criminal charges.
Other questions you might have for a lawyer include:
- My neighbor keeps his dog chained up outside all day in the hot sun. The animal is clearly suffering. I’ve complained to the police and animal control officials, but no one will take any action. Would it be illegal for me to rescue the dog?
- Could I be charged with neglecting or abusing my cat because I don’t have the money for expensive vet treatment?
- A neighbor’s dog dug a hole under my fence and got into rat poison in my yard. Now the neighbor is threatening to press charges and/or sue me for poisoning the dog, because I should’ve known it could get in my yard. Can I be liable?