“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”
—George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Throwing a dog into oncoming traffic on a freeway. Starving a horse to death. Leaving newborn kittens on the street. These are all cases of animal cruelty that have been reported in the media. Arizona law makes cruelty to animals a crime.

A person may be guilty of cruelty to animals if he subjects an animal to cruel neglect or abandonment; fails to provide medical attention necessary to prevent protracted suffering; inflicts unnecessary physical injury on an animal; subjects an animal to cruel mistreatment; kills or harms an animal without the owner’s consent; leaves an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle where physical injury or death is likely to result; allows a dog to kill or injure a service animal; or exerts unauthorized control over a service animal. An “animal” is defined by law as a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian.

It is not cruelty to animals to expose poison to a dog that has killed or wounded livestock or to other predatory animals on property owned by the person seeking to protect himself, or his livestock or poultry. A warning notice in such cases must be posted on the property. A person may also use poisons on his property to control rodents, excluding any fur-bearing animals.

The law does not prohibit normal hunting activities, or activities regulated by the Arizona Game and Fish Depart­ment or the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

In cases involving cruelty to animals, the state must gener­ally prove that the person charged acted intentionally, know­ingly or recklessly. A person who violates the state’s cruelty to animals law is guilty of either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the cruel acts. In addition, any city, town or county is allowed to adopt an ordinance with misde­meanor provisions for cruelty to animals. A person found guilty of cruelty to animals under state law or a local ordi­nance may be sentenced to jail and/or fined, and may be required to pay damages to the owner of the animal.


The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission. 

Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created. 

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Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know.  Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at don@looselawgroup.com.