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Georgia
Anti-Cruelty Statutes

CODE OF GEORGIA
TITLE 16. CRIMES AND OFFENSES
CHAPTER 12. OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC HEALTH AND MORALS
ARTICLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS

§ 16-12-4. Cruelty to animals

(a) As used in this Code section, the term:

  • (1) "Animal" shall not include any fish nor shall such term include any pest that might be exterminated or removed from a business, residence, or other structure.

  • (2) "Conviction" shall include pleas of guilty or nolo contendere or probation as a first offender pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 42 and any conviction, plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or probation as a first offender for an offense under the laws of the United States or any of the several states that would constitute a violation of this Code section if committed in this state.

  • (3) "Willful neglect" means the intentional withholding of food and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or dehydration.

(b) A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he or she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect. Any person convicted of a violation of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; provided, however, that:

  • (1) Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, a fine not to exceed $5,000.00, or both; and

  • (2) Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this subsection which results in the death of an animal shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three months nor more than 12 months, a fine not to exceed $10,000.00, or both, which punishment shall not be suspended, probated, or withheld.

(c) 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. A person convicted of the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed $15,000.00, or both, provided that any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed the amount provided by Code Section 17-10-8, or both.

(d) Before sentencing a defendant for any conviction under this Code section, the sentencing judge may require psychological evaluation of the offender and shall consider the entire criminal record of the offender.

(e) The provisions of this Code section shall not be construed as prohibiting conduct which is otherwise permitted under the laws of this state or of the United States, including, but not limited to, agricultural, animal husbandry, butchering, food processing, marketing, scientific, research, medical, zoological, exhibition, competitive, hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife management, or pest control practices or the authorized practice of veterinary medicine nor to limit in any way the authority or duty of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, any county board of health, any law enforcement officer, dog, animal, or rabies control officer, humane society, veterinarian, or private landowner protecting his or her property.

(f)(1) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed as prohibiting a person from:

  • (A) Defending his or her person or property, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by an animal; or

  • (B) Injuring or killing an animal reasonably believed to constitute a threat for injury or damage to any property, livestock, or poultry.

(2) The method used to injure or kill such animal shall be designed to be as humane as is possible under the circumstances. A person who humanely injures or kills an animal under the circumstances indicated in this subsection shall incur no civil or criminal liability for such injury or death.

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