Maryland’s Laws on Animal Cruelty: Penalties, Reporting Requirements, and Advocacy Efforts
Animal cruelty is a terrible (and all too common) reality in our society. If you’ve witnessed this behavior firsthand, you may be wondering what you can do to protect the animals being harmed and to hold their abusers accountable. Or perhaps you would like to get more involved as an advocate for animal rights. Let’s break down the laws regarding animal cruelty in Maryland, how to report abuse and the advocacy efforts currently in place.
What Are Animal Cruelty Laws?
Simply put, animal cruelty laws explicitly forbid abusive and neglectful treatment of animals. Maryland has specific laws in place that prohibit a range of different types of animal cruelty, including:
- Torture (the intentional infliction of pain or suffering on an animal)
- Neglect (the failure to provide an animal with food, water, shelter, or medical care)
- Abuse (intentional infliction of pain or suffering on an animal)
- Animal fighting (breeding, training or fighting animals for sport)
What Are the Penalties For Animal Cruelty in Maryland?
It depends on the severity of the crime (and whether or not the abuser is a repeat offender); penalties can range anywhere from fines to imprisonment (or both). In Maryland, penalties typically fall within three categories:
Misdemeanor animal cruelty. A person convicted of a misdemeanor animal cruelty offense can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Felony animal cruelty. Felony animal cruelty charges are more serious than misdemeanor offenses, and can carry a penalty of up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Aggravated animal cruelty. This is the most severe charge. A person convicted of aggravated animal cruelty can be sentenced to up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
How Do I Report Animal Cruelty in Maryland?
There are several ways to do so. You can call the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Animal Cruelty Hotline at 1-800-628-0310, or file a report online with the MDA. You can also contact your local animal control agency or police department. When you make the report, try to be as specific as possible. That means including details like the location where the cruelty is taking place, as well as the type of cruelty (is the animal being abused or neglected?) and names of people involved, if you know them. (Don’t worry – you can file an anonymous report if you’re worried about revealing your identity.)
There are a number of organizations in Maryland and throughout the country that are actively working to prevent animal cruelty. These organizations provide education and resources to the public, advocate for stronger animal protection laws and work to rescue and rehabilitate animals that have been abused or neglected. Some of the more prominent organizations include:
With stronger laws, harsher punishments, greater visibility and a commitment to advocacy, we can all work together to put a stop to the horrors of animal cruelty.