Animal Law

Animal Cruelty Laws in New York

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
It’s illegal in New York to abuse, neglect, abandon, or endanger animals in a variety of ways—including cosmetic tattoos and piercings.

Cruelty to animals is illegal in New York, as it is across the country. The state also has a long list of laws that prohibit specific actions from leaving dogs outside without proper shelter to clipping their ears without a vet and anesthesia. We’ve summarized the most important state laws that pet owners and animal lovers should know about.

Abusing or Neglecting Animals

It’s a misdemeanor in New York to mistreat a domestic or wild animal in various ways, including:

  • torturing
  • overworking
  • beating cruelly
  • injuring, maiming, mutilating, or killing without justification; or
  • failing to provide necessary food or drink.

The state also makes it a crime to allow, instigate, or participate in these forms of animal cruelty, or to obtain an animal for that purpose. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353.)

Other laws make it illegal to:

  • carry an animal in a vehicle or vessel in a cruel way, or
  • purposefully leave objects that could injure animals (like glass, nails, or pieces of metal) in a street or public place.

(N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law §§ 359, 362.)

Aggravated Cruelty to Pets

New York makes it a felony to kill or seriously injure a pet (or “companion animal”) on purpose and in a particularly sadistic manner, or with the intention of causing extreme pain. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353-a.)

Abandoning Pets

Anyone who owns or is responsible for an animal can be charged with a misdemeanor for:

  • abandoning the animal
  • leaving it to die on the street or in another public place, or
  • allowing it to lie in a public place more than three hours after being notified that it’s disabled.

(N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law §355.)

Leaving Pets in Cars

Pet owners in New York may be subject to a fine if they endanger their animals by locking them in vehicles under conditions of extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection. Police or animal control officers may take any actions needed to rescue the animals and take them to a shelter. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353-d.)

Leaving Dogs Outside Without Shelter

When dogs are left outside without a way to get indoors, their owners must provide shelter that’s clean and appropriate for the climate as well as the dog’s breed and physical condition. Depending on the weather and the dog, the shelter requirements might include shade, a waterproof roof, insulation, and enough room to move freely. If these requirements aren’t met, authorities may seize the dog and impose a fine on the owner. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353-b.)

Clipping, Tattooing, and Piercing

New York pet owners may not have their animals pierced or tattooed unless the procedure is necessary for medical or identification purposes. It’s also against the law to clip a dog’s ears unless a veterinarian does the procedure and uses anesthesia. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353-f, 365.)

Exemption for Scientific Testing

The ban on animal cruelty in New York doesn’t apply to scientific experiments that use living animals, as long as they’re approved under state regulations and properly conducted in labs or institutions. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 353.)

Organized Dogfights and Cockfights

New York outlaws any kind of animal fighting for amusement or profit. The crime may be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the level of the person’s participation, from breeding and training to watching or betting on fights. (N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 351.)

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 Illinois 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 and chews its own skin from the stress. 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?
  • I was charged with animal cruelty for poisoning my neighbor’s dog. But it wasn’t my fault: The dog got into the rat poison only after digging a hole under my fence. What can I do?
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