Animal Law

Animal Cruelty Laws in Michigan

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
It’s illegal in Michigan to abuse, abandon, or neglect animals, or to allow them to suffer unnecessarily.

Cruelty to animals is illegal in Michigan, as it is across the country. Some of the state’s animal protection laws are specific to certain types of animals (including service and police dogs, horses, and other livestock), while others cover all other animals. Below, we’ve summarized the most important laws that pet owners and animal lovers should know about.

Animal Abuse and Neglect

It’s a crime in Michigan to abuse animals in a various ways, including:

  • torture, mutilation, maiming, or killing, either intentionally or recklessly
  • beating or overworking cruelly
  • tethering a dog with a rope or chain that’s too short, and
  • allowing an animal to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain through negligence.

It’s also illegal to abandon animals or neglect them by not giving them enough food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary care to maintain good health.

Animal abuse is a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the level of cruelty, the number of animals involved, and the number of previous convictions. The law spells out procedures and hearing requirements when authorities impound mistreated pets. (Mich. Comp. Laws §§750.50, 750.50b.)

Exceptions to Animal Cruelty Laws

Michigan’s animal cruelty laws don’t apply to the legal killing of animals for certain purposes, including:

  • scientific research
  • legal hunting, fishing, trapping, or wildlife control
  • farming, or
  • rodent control.

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§750.50(11)-(12), 750.50b(8)-(11).)

Poisoning Animals

Intentionally poisoning an animal is a felony in Michigan. It’s a misdemeanor to leave poison in a place where someone else’s animals are likely to eat it. However, the law makes exceptions for certain kinds of rat poison on your own property or poisoning predatory animals on private land outside of city limits. (Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.50b(c), 750.437.)

Organized Animal Fighting

It’s a felony in Michigan to participate in organized animal fighting in various ways, including being present at the preparations or the fight itself. (Michigan Comp. Laws § 750.49.)

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?
  • Animal control officers came in my yard and took my dog after a neighbor complained about so-called abuse. Can they do that without a warrant? How can I get my pet back?
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