Delaware Code Title 11. Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 1325. Cruelty to animals;  class A misdemeanor;  class F felony

(a) For the purpose of this section, the following words and phrases shall include, but not be limited to, the meanings respectively ascribed to them as follows:

(1) “Abandonment” includes completely forsaking or deserting an animal originally under one's custody without making reasonable arrangements for custody of that animal to be assumed by another person.

(2) “Animal” shall not include fish, crustacea or molluska.

(3) “Cruel” includes every act or omission to act whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused or permitted.

(4) “Cruel mistreatment” includes any treatment whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused or permitted.

(5) “Cruel neglect” includes neglect of an animal, which is under the care and control of the neglector, whereby pain or suffering is caused to the animal or abandonment of any domesticated animal by its owner or custodian.  By way of example, cruel neglect shall also include allowing an animal to live in unsanitary conditions, such as keeping an animal where the animal's own excrement is not removed from the animal's living area and/or other living conditions which are injurious to the animal's health.

(6) “Cruelty to animals” includes mistreatment of any animal or neglect of any animal under the care and control of the neglector, whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused.  By way of example this includes:  Unjustifiable beating of an animal;  overworking an animal;  tormenting an animal;  abandonment of an animal;  tethering of dog for 18 hours or more in any 24-hour period, except on land owned or leased by the dog's owner that is not less than 10 acres;  tethering any dog for any amount of time if the dog is under 4 months of age or is a nursing mother while the offspring are present, except on land owned or leased by the dog's owner that is not less than 10 acres;  and failure to feed properly or give proper shelter or veterinary care to an animal.

(7) “Custody” includes the responsibility for the welfare of an animal subject to one's care and control whether one owns it or not.  A person who provides sterilization or care to a free-roaming cat that lacks discernible owner identification is not deemed to have “custody,” “care,” or “control” of the cat for purposes of this section.

(8) “Person” includes any individual, partnership, corporation or association living and/or doing business in the State.

(9) “Proper feed” includes providing each animal with daily food and water of sufficient quality and quantity to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering by the animal.

(10) “Proper shelter” includes providing each animal with adequate shelter from the weather elements as required to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering by the animal.

(11) “Proper veterinary care” includes providing each animal with veterinary care sufficient to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering by the animal.

(12) “Serious injury” shall include any injury to any animal which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

(13) “Tethering” shall include fastening or restraining with a rope, chain, cord, or similar device creating a fixed radius;  tethering does not include walking a dog on a leash, regardless of the dog's age.

(b) A person is guilty of cruelty to animals when the person intentionally or recklessly:

(1) Subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment;  or

(2) Subjects any animal in the person's custody to cruel neglect;  or

(3) Kills or injures any animal belonging to another person without legal privilege or consent of the owner;  or

(4) Cruelly or unnecessarily kills or injures any animal.  This section does not apply to the killing of any animal normally or commonly raised as food for human consumption, provided that such killing is not cruel.  A person acts unnecessarily if the act is not required to terminate an animal's suffering, to protect the life or property of the actor or another person or if other means of disposing of an animal exist which would not impair the health or well-being of that animal;  or

(5) Captures, detains, transports, removes or delivers any animal known to be a pet or owned or unowned companion animal, or any other animal of scientific, environmental, economic or cultural value, under false pretenses to any public or private animal shelter, veterinary clinic or other facility, or otherwise causes the same through acts of deception or misrepresentation of the circumstances and disposition of any such animal;  or

(6) Confines an animal unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in which the temperature is either so high or so low as to endanger the health or safety of the animal.  A law-enforcement officer, animal welfare officer, or firefighter who has probable cause to believe that an animal is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal may use reasonable force to remove the animal left in the vehicle in violation of this provision.  A person removing an animal under this section shall use reasonable means to contact the owner.  If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the animal to an animal shelter and must leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed.  This provision shall not apply to the legal transportation of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, or other agricultural animals in motor vehicles designed to transport such animals.  The owner of the vehicle from which the animal is rescued and the owner of the animal rescued are not liable for injuries suffered by the person rescuing the animal.

Paragraphs (b)(1), (2) and (4) of this section are inapplicable to accepted veterinary practices and activities carried on for scientific research.

Cruelty to animals is a class A misdemeanor, unless the person intentionally kills or causes serious injury to any animal in violation of paragraph (b)(4) of this section or unless the animal is killed or seriously injured as a result of any action prohibited by paragraph (b)(5) of this section, in which case it is a class F felony.

(c) Any person convicted of a misdemeanor violation of this section shall be prohibited from owning or possessing any animal for 5 years after said conviction, except for animals grown, raised or produced within the State for resale, or for sale of a product thereof, where the person has all necessary licenses for such sale or resale, and receives at least 25 percent of the person's annual gross income from such sale or resale.  Any person convicted of a second or subsequent misdemeanor violation of this section shall be prohibited from owning or possessing any animal for 5 years after said conviction without exception.

A violation of this subsection is subject to a fine in the amount of $1,000 in any court of competent jurisdiction and to forfeiture of any animal illegally owned in accordance with the provisions of § 3035F of Title 16 .

(d) Any person convicted of a felony violation of this section shall be prohibited from owning or possessing any animal for 15 years after said conviction, except for animals grown, raised or produced within the State for resale, or for sale of a product thereof, where the person has all necessary licenses for such sale or resale, and receives at least 25 percent of the person's annual gross income from such sale or resale.  Any person convicted of a second or subsequent felony violation of this section shall be prohibited from owning or possessing any animal for 15 years after said conviction without exception.

A violation of this subsection is subject to a fine in the amount of $5,000 in any court of competent jurisdiction and to forfeiture of any animal illegally owned in accordance with the provisions of § 3035F of Title 16 .

(e) Any trained and certified animal welfare officer of the Department of Health and Social Service's Office of Animal Welfare or the Department of Agriculture may impound an animal owned or possessed in apparent violation of this section, consistent with § 3035F of Title 16 .

(f) This section shall not apply to the lawful hunting or trapping of animals as provided by law.

(g) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, for a first offense misdemeanor violation of this section relating to animals left in motor vehicles or the tethering of dogs, a warning shall be issued.

(h) Exclusive jurisdiction of offenses under this section relating to animals left in motor vehicles or the tethering of dogs shall be in the Superior Court.


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