Recognizing and Reporting Animal Cruelty

For your guidance, we are providing you with a summary of Article 26 of the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets laws. It includes some sections of laws that are used most often. A complete set of these laws may be obtained by calling the Department at (518) 457-3502.

According to the FBI, the triad of being abused as a child, reacting by torturing animals, and becoming violent to humans is so well established that animal cruelty is used as a means of identifying suspects in violent crimes.

Animal cruelty is a valuable predictor of present and future violent individuals. According to the FBI, the triad of being abused as a child, reacting by torturing animals, and becoming violent to humans is so well established that animal cruelty is used as a means of identifying suspects in violent crimes and as an indicator of possible future offenders.

If you witness or strongly suspect abuse or neglect of an animal, please contact authorities. If you have an SPCA or humane society that handles cruelty cases, speak with their humane law enforcement officer, or you can call the State Police, Sheriff’s Department, or local police. Please follow up, and be persistent if you feel nothing is being done.

Section 350 Definitions: Define an animal as every living creature except a human being. Before proceeding with a cruelty investigation, a police or peace officer should refer to all of the definitions. Of particular importance, the definition of “torture” or “cruelty” includes every act, omission, or neglect, whereby unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death is caused or permitted.

Section 371 states that a constable or police officer must, and any agent or officer of any duly incorporated SPCA may, issue an Appearance ticket, summon or arrest any person offending against any of the provisions of Article 26.

Also note Section 6714 of the Education Law: When a Veterinarian reasonably and in good faith suspects that a companion animal’s injury, illness or condition is the result of animal cruelty, the veterinarian may report the incident or disclose records to the police, SPCA or any other appropriate government agency. (Note: A bill signed by the NY Governor in 2021 requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty to the police, an SPCA or other appropriate agency and to turn over necessary records.)

Section 353 – Failure to provide proper sustenance (This is the section used most often when investigating cruelty): A person who overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or procures or permits any animal to be over driven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty is guilty of a misdemeanor.

This section refers to three forms of cruelty to any and all animals:

  • Unjustifiably injuring, maiming, mutilating or killing of any animal, whether wild or tame. (Justifiable killing would include such behavior as lawful hunting and fishing.)
  • Lack of proper sustenance, food, or drink. Section 373-2 states that an animal must not be allowed to go without necessary sustenance for more than twelve hours.
  • Any act of cruelty, which by definition includes any unjustifiable act, omission, or neglect. Most cases stem from neglect.

Some examples of an omission or neglect are:

  • Leaving dogs in hot cars (this act could also be considered a felony if done intentionally).
  • Failure to provide proper shelter, resulting in skin problems such as frostbite on dogs’ footpads, rain scald in horses.
  • Lack of necessary vet care for serious injuries or medical conditions such as skin and/or eye.
  • Infections or parasite infestation, etc.
  • Lack of proper farrier care resulting in overgrown hooves.
  • Toenails embedded into the footpads of dogs and cats.
  • Collars embedded into the necks of dogs.
  • Halters embedded into the heads of horses.

Section 353-a – Aggravated cruelty to animals: This section makes violent acts of cruelty against companion animals a felony. A companion animal is defined as any dog, cat or any other domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household. Some examples would be:

  • The beating of a companion animal resulting in extreme pain or death.
  • Setting a companion animal on fire.
  • Intentionally placing a companion animal in a hot car resulting in extreme suffering or death.

Section 353-b Appropriate shelter for dogs left outdoors: Any person who owns or has custody or control of a dog who is left outdoors shall provide it with shelter appropriate to its breed, physical condition and the climate. Any person who knowingly violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a violation. Beginning 72 hours after a charge of violating this section, each day that the defendant fails to correct the deficiencies shall constitute a separate offense.

Section 351 – Animal fighting:

It is a Felony to:

  • Fight animals for amusement (a street fight; no betting has to take place) or gain.
  • Train an animal with the intent that it will be fought.
  • Breed, sell or offer for sale any animal under circumstances evincing an intent that such animal engage in animal fighting (new as of 2004).
  • Permit either of the above to be conducted on your premises
  • Possess an animal trained to engage in fighting on premises where fighting is taking place.

It is a misdemeanor to:

  • Own, possess or keep any animal with the intent that the animal engages in fighting.
  • Be a spectator who paid an admission or made a wager where animal fighting is being conducted.

Section 354 – Sale of baby chicks and baby rabbits

It is a misdemeanor to:

  • Sell or give away baby chicks, ducks, or other fowl or rabbits, which have been dyed.
  • Sell or give away any of the above in quantities less than six if they are under two months of age.

Section 355 – Abandonment: It is a misdemeanor to abandon an animal whether from a house, apartment, or on a street. If a person abandons an animal which results in suffering, he or she could also be charged under Section 353.

Section 357 – Selling/Exposing Diseased Animals: It is a misdemeanor to sell, expose, or permit any animal to be sold or exposed that has a disease that is contagious to other animals or humans.

Section 358 – Selling disabled horses: It is a violation for an auctioneer to sell any horse that is lame or diseased.

Section 358-a – Live animals as prizes: The only animals that may be given away as prizes at fairs or other places are purebred livestock or fish.

Section 359 – Carrying animals in a cruel manner: A person who carries or causes to be carried in or upon any vessel, vehicle or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, or so as to produce torture, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 359-a – Transportation of horses: This section applies to the transportation of more than six horses. Note that horses cannot be transported in trailers having more than one tier.

Section 360 – Poisoning animals: It is a felony to unjustifiably poison any horse, mule, or cattle or expose such drug with the intent that it is ingested. It is a misdemeanor to unjustifiably poison other animals.

Section 365 – Clipping the ears of dogs: Ear cropping may be done only by a veterinarian, and an anesthetic must be given to the animal. Breeders have no legal authority to crop the ears of dogs.

What you can do to help with animal cruelty:
  1. Continue to support NYSHA and its work.
  2. Notify local police or humane society of acts of cruelty.
  3. Write letters to the local newspapers supporting strong cruelty law enforcement.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XVIII, No.4, Winter 2004.