Animal cruelty or cruelty to animals is regulated in different jurisdictions including animal abuse and neglect to kill or cause unnecessary harm or suffering to animals. The activities usually include neglect, abandonment, mistreat, and cruel treatment towards animals. There are studies on the link between human and animal cruelty. Factory farming is the largest source of animal cruelty in the world, but the cruelty to farm animals is always excluded in the anti-cruelty laws. According to the World Animal Protection, 95% of pigs are raised on factory farms where they cannot behave naturally, and 75% of mother pigs in factory farming environments are confined in cages - the size of an average refrigerator - during pregnancy, so small that they cannot turn around. We have to admit that we still have a long way to go to protect the farmed animals from cruel practices.
It is illegal to treat animals cruelly in some jurisdictions. The laws prohibit the action of mistreatments, including neglect, abandonment, mutilation, maiming, and torture. The lawmakers also provide specific provisions on specific behaviors and penalties, but the rules vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. 49 states in the United States, for example, have laws to provide felony penalties for animal torture on the first offense except for Lowa.
Neglect an animal is illegal in almost all states in the United States. The neglecting behaviors generally include not providing necessary food, water, and shelter, and some states require to provide veterinary care, exercise, sanitary conditions, and protection from weather for animals when the animals suffer “unnecessary or unjustified pain as a result, and only if the owners acted intentionally, recklessly, or with criminal negligence” (Wash Rev. Code § 16.52.207) For shelter, some states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, make it criminal neglect when dogs are left outdoor in extreme weather conditions.
Torture and other cruel treatment are prohibited including deliberately poisoning animals, unnecessarily or cruelly torture, mutilation, maiming, overworking, and killing any animal. The penalties vary when the abuse is unintentional, intentional, reckless, or malicious.
Dumping or leaving animals in public places or anywhere without providing any care is regarded as abandonment, a prohibited action of animal cruelty. The abandonment rule is hard to have the enforcement except when there is a way to tracking the abandoned animals or there is a witness. Leaving animals in cars under extreme weather conditions may cause harm to animals and some states allow bystanders to break into the car and rescue animals.
Other actions such as cockfighting or dogfighting, or decorating animals with tattoos, piercings, ear-cropping or tail docking, and animal hoarding are regulated in some state laws.
On January 1, 2016, the FBI added cruelty to animals as a category in the Uniform Crime Report, a nationwide crime reporting system commonly used in homicide investigations. In 2019, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act was passed as a federal law which as the first animal cruelty law at the federal level, and the extreme animal cruelty practices such as crushing animals or creating crushing videos can be prosecuted as a federal crime according to the PACT Act.
Read more: History of Anti-Cruelty Laws and the States’ Animal Cruelty Statutes.