Cruelty to animals is illegal in Wyoming, as it is across the U.S. But the state’s animal protection laws are weaker and less comprehensive than in many parts of the country. In fact, a report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Wyoming as among the “worst five” states for animals. Below, we’ve summarized the most important state laws that that pet owners and animal lovers should know about.
What Is Animal Cruelty?
In Wyoming, people can be charged with animal cruelty if they intend to cause an animal’s injury, excessive suffering, or death when they knowingly:
- beat, torture, injure, or try to kill an animal unnecessarily or cruelly
- overwork an animal, or
- transport animals in a way that risks their injury or death.
Animal cruelty is generally a misdemeanor. However, the defendant will face felony charges if the animal died as a result of the beating, torture, injury, or attempted killing. It’s also a felony to destroy or seriously injure someone else’s animal on purpose. (Wyo. Stat. § 6-3-203(a), (c), (e), (n).)
Neglect and Abandonment
It’s a misdemeanor in Wyoming to neglect an animal in your custody by:
- not giving it proper food, water, protection from the weather, or appropriate medical care (in cases of immediate, obvious, and serious illness or injury)
- abandoning the animal cruelly, or
- keeping a household pet under conditions that would be considered a public health hazard or in any way that seriously harms the pet, either chronically or repeatedly.
(Wyo. Stat. § 6-3-203(b), (e), (p).)
Exceptions to Animal Cruelty
Wyoming exempts several kinds of legal activity from its animal cruelty laws, including:
- accepted agricultural and livestock practices
- rodeo events
- hunting, capture, or destruction of wildlife or any predatory animals
- training or using dogs or raptors to hunt; and
- humane euthanasia.
(Wyo. Stat. § 6-3-203(f), (m).)
Within Wyoming’s cities and towns, it’s a misdemeanor to deliberately poison or kill a dog with ground glass. (Wyo. Stat. § 11-31-104.)
Organized Animal Dogfighting or Cockfighting
It’s a felony in Wyoming to participate in organized dogfighting or cockfighting, including owning or training the fighting animals. However, spectators at the fights will only face misdemeanor charges. (Wyo. Stat. § 6-3-203(c), (g).)
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 animal cruelty if I don’t have the money for expensive vet treatment that my cat needs?
- 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?