Michigan Goes After Cruelty and Neglect Based on the Numbers of Animals Affected

Michigan has changed its scheme for punishing animal cruelty and neglect. 

In bills that have now been signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm, those convicted of animal cruelty or neglect will for the most part, be charged and sentenced depending on the number of animals they hurt at one time.

Previously under Michigan law, offenders were charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony with increasing penalties on the second, third and subsequent offenses. 

Now, for animal cruelty or neglect involving one animal, an offender will generally be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a fine up to $1,000 and up to 200 hours of community service. If the crime involves abuse or neglect of 2 or 3 animals or the death of an animal, the offender will generally be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 300 hours of community service.  

For animal cruelty or neglect involving between 4 and 10 animals or an offender who has a previous conviction for animal cruelty, then felony charges can be filed with possible imprisonment up to 2 years, fines up to $2,000 and 300 hours of community service.  For someone committing animal cruelty or neglect involving 10 or more animals or who has 2 or more convictions for animal cruelty, the new law provides felony penalties of up to 4 years in prison, a fine up to $5,000 and up to 500 hours of community service.

Sentences can be imposed consecutively on charges even if they arise out of the same incident.  

These changes do not apply to crimes involving the willful or malicious killing, torture, mutilation, maiming, disfigurement or poisoning of animal. These crimes are still treated as felonies on the first and subsequent offense regardless of the number of animals involved.

A judge can also order anyone convicted of any of these crimes to pay for the veterinary and other care and shelter for the animals as well as costs of prosecution. Anyone convicted of these crimes can be ordered to stay away from animals during any probationary period.  

Significantly, persons convicted under the new law can be ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and any recommended treatment.

The law still does not apply to hunting, trapping wildlife control or pest or rodent control, farm animals or animals used for research.  A new exception was added for veterinarians.

Check out Animal Law Coalition’s Laws for a copy of the changes to Michigan’s animal cruelty laws.