Animals are vulnerable members of our society. Most of the time, we love and cherish them. But sometimes animals are neglected, abused, or mistreated. When that happens, for whatever reason, the law steps in. Cruelty to animals in Oklahoma is a crime.
Cruelty to Animals in Oklahoma Defined
Oklahoma law defines animals as mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and the like, both wild and domesticated. That means that both wild animals and domestic animals are covered by this set of Oklahoma laws. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1680.1
Cruelty to animals in Oklahoma is the willful or malicious torturing, destruction, beating, maiming, mutilation, or killing of any animal. This applies to any animal regardless of ownership and regardless of whether the animal is wild or domesticated. It applies to your animal, to your neighbor’s animal, to the stray on the street, and to animals in the wild.
Furthermore, if you deprive an animal of necessary food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care to prevent suffering, you could face a conviction for animal cruelty.
That dog who is tied up outside in 100-degree weather without food or water, leaving an animal in pain rather than taking it to the vet, starving an animal, are all examples of animal cruelty. Cruelty to animals in Oklahoma is also willfully setting on foot, instigating, engaging in, or furthering any act of cruelty to an animal or any act which produces cruelty to an animal. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1685
Cruelty to animals in Oklahoma is a felony offense. If convicted, you could face up to a year in county jail or up to five years in prison. A fine of up to $5,000 may be assessed in addition to or in lieu of incarceration.
Courts don’t like to see instances of willful cruelty to animals. The court has a great deal of discretion in the sentence imposed in order to determine a sentence appropriate to the act of cruelty involved. King v. State, 130 P.2d 105, 1942 OK CR 136
Veterinarians are mandated reporters under the law. Thus, if a veterinarian suspects that an animal is being abused, he or she must report those suspicions to law enforcement within 24 hours of examining the animal. The report will include facts regarding their observations and the name and address of the owner. This allows police to investigate the situation.
Upon investigation, any abused or neglected animal may be removed by a peace officer or animal control officer. The police may seek medical treatment for the animal and charge the owner for it.
Likewise, if your animal is seized, you may be required to post a bond for its care. Amounts needed for its care will be subtracted from the bond amount. If the animal must be euthanized, the euthanasia will be performed even if the owner disagrees with the decision.
In addition, if the animal has been abused, the police officer or animal control officer may specify the terms and conditions under which the animal’s owner or keeper may maintain custody. Violation of the custody agreement may result in the impoundment or loss of the animal. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1680.4
Poisoning Animals is Also a Felony
Willfully poisoning an animal or exposing an animal to poisonous substances with the intent to poison them is also against the law in Oklahoma. The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail or up to three years in prison. A fine of up to $250 may be imposed instead of or in addition to incarceration. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1681
Sometimes, people abandon animals near the side of the road. While this does not constitute felonious cruelty to animals in Oklahoma, it is still illegal. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1691
Abandoning an animal is punishable by a fine between $100 and $500, up to a year in jail, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1692
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