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How to identify and report animal cruelty in Georgia
Provided by the Humane Association of Georgia, Inc.
Incidents of animal fighting or animal cruelty may go unreported because of a lack of understanding of what constitutes animal cruelty and the agency that should be notified when it is witnessed. This paper explains the legal parameters surrounding animal cruelty charges and the various governmental agencies involved by animal species or activity. These guidelines should help direct you to the proper authority and allow more prompt and effective investigation of incidents. Use of these guidelines will enable the current enforcement manpower to concentrate on investigating, prosecuting and monitoring reported cases.
What Is the Legal Definition of Animal Cruelty in Georgia?
Animal Cruelty (misdemeanor charge): A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he/she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission or willful neglect. Willful neglect means the intentional withholding of food and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or dehydration. O.C.G.A. 16-12-4
Animal Cruelty (felony charge) A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal’s body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal…(paraphrased) except for conduct otherwise permitted under state or federal law. O.C.G.A. 16-12-4
Dog Fighting: A person commits the offense of dog fighting when he/she causes or allows a dog to fight another dog for sport or gaming purposes or maintains or operates any event at which dogs are allowed or encouraged to fight one another. O.C.G.A. 16-12-37
Cock Fighting (not legally defined): A person commits the offense of chicken fighting when he/she causes or allows a chicken to fight another chicken for sport or gaming purposes or maintains or operates any event at which chickens are allowed or encouraged to fight one another.
What Documentation Must I Collect Before Reporting an Alleged Animal Cruelty Incident?
Who Do I Call to Report an Alleged Animal Cruelty Incident?
How Do I Find More Information about These Agencies?
Georgia Department of Agriculture, Animal Protection Section licenses operators of animal shelters, rescue groups and humane societies that house animals, pet breeders, pet dealers, pet shops, pet groomers, boarding and training kennels, and aviaries and enforces the Georgia Animal Protection Act, O.C.G.A. 4-11-1. www.agr.state.ga.us
Georgia Department of Agriculture, Equine Health Section licenses operators of stables and enforces specific sections of the Georgia Animal Protection Act, O.C.G.A. 4-11-1, pertinent to equine. They also have jurisdiction over the care and treatment of equine under the authority of the Georgia Humane Care for Equine Act, O.C.G.A. 4-13-1. www.agr.state.ga.us
Local law enforcement (municipal or county police department or county sheriff’s department) enforces the criminal provisions of Cruelty to Animal, O.C.G.A. 16-12-4. An animal control officer is an individual authorized by local laws or by the governing authority of a county or municipality to carry out the duties imposed by local ordinance and certain articles contained with the Georgia Animal Protection Act, O.C.G.A. 4-11-12.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division licenses individuals and companies engaged in the exhibition of wildlife and exotic animals (not normally domesticated) and enforces the Standard for Humane Handling and Care, O.C.G.A. 27-5-6. georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us/
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for most warm-blooded animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. They license animal dealers (pet wholesalers, animal brokers, laboratory animal breeders and dealers, exotic and wild animal dealers), animal transporters (commercial airlines), animal exhibitors (circuses, zoos, promotional animal exhibits), and research facilities. They enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act and the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A. www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/
This paper is a work in process to help eliminate frivolous calls as well as provide reporting guidelines. We anticipate adding 'Frequently Asked Questions," "What Is NOT Cruelty," and "What to Do If Authorities Do Not Respond." Thanks to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Animal Control Association, Georgia Veterinary Medical Association and the Georgia Coalition of Dog Fanciers, Inc. for their help.
Please send any suggestions to the Humane Association of Georgia, Inc., 1317 Hearst Drive, Atlanta, GA 30319.