Animal Neglect Law and Legal Definition

Animal neglect or abandonment is a common type of animal cruelty where people do not provide adequate care for animals in their charge. The neglected animal may be their own pet, a farm animal, or wildlife. A neglected animal is not provided with proper food, water, veterinary care, shelter and socialization. Chaining an animal for a long period of time can also be neglect and is considered illegal in many municipalities and several states.

Neglect may be deliberate abuse or simply a failure to take care of an animal. Either way, the offender is strictly punishable for such acts of animal cruelty. If the neglect is unintentional, correctional authorities try to correct the situation by making the owner aware of basic animal care requirements. Generally, legal systems and welfare agencies is prone to intervene in severe cases of animal neglect or in cases involving large numbers of animals.

All U.S. states have animal cruelty laws, and 46 states and District of Columbia treat some forms of abuse as felonies. Most states' animal cruelty statutes contain provisions that address the minimum standards of care for an animal. Definitions of terms such as adequate food, water, shelter and veterinary care are also included in these provisions. In many cases, animal neglect can be prosecuted as a felony if the neglect was intentional, malicious or extreme enough to be considered "torture" or to have caused extreme physical suffering or death.

Following is an example of a state statute (Illinois) on: a) an owner’s duties towards animals, and b) cruel treatment of animals:

510 ILCS 70/3. Owner's duties

Sec. 3. Owner's duties. Each owner shall provide for each of his animals:

(a) sufficient quantity of good quality, wholesome food and water;

(b) adequate shelter and protection from the weather;

(c) veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering; and

(d) humane care and treatment.

A person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation is a Class 4 felony with every day that a violation continues constituting a separate offense. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, upon conviction for violating this Section, the court may order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo any treatment at the convicted person's expense that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation. If the convicted person is a juvenile or a companion animal hoarder, the court must order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo treatment that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation.

510 ILCS 70/3.01. Cruel treatment.

Sec. 3.01. Cruel treatment. No person or owner may beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork or otherwise abuse any animal.

No owner may abandon any animal where it may become a public charge or may suffer injury, hunger or exposure.

A person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this Section is a Class 4 felony. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, upon conviction for violating this Section, the court may order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo any treatment at the convicted person's expense that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evidence. If the convicted person is a juvenile or a companion animal hoarder, the court must order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo treatment that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation.