North Carolina recognizes at least eleven distinct crimes against animals punishable by law. Broken down by specific offense, the following crimes against animals are explicitly prohibited:
- § 14-360. Cruelty to animals.
- § 14-361. Instigating or promoting cruelty to animals.
- § 14-361.1. Abandonment of animals.
- § 14-362. Cockfighting.
- § 14-362.1. Animal fights and baiting, other than cock fights, dog fights and dog baiting.
- § 14-362.2. Dog fighting and baiting.
- § 14-362.3. Restraining dogs in a cruel manner.
- § 14-363. Conveying animals in a cruel manner.
- § 14-363.1. Living baby chicks or other fowl, or rabbits under eight weeks of age; disposing of as pets or novelties forbidden.
- § 14-363.2. Confiscation of cruelly treated animals.
- § 14-363.3. Confinement of animals in motor vehicles.
Elements of Animal Cruelty Charge Under § 14-360
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-360 outlines the general charge for cruelty to animals. Each of the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for someone to be convicted of the crime.
§ 14-360(a) A person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor animal cruelty charge if he or she:
- Overdrives, overloads, wounds, injures, torments, kills, or deprives of necessary sustenance, or causes or procures to be overdriven, overloaded, wounded, injured, tormented, killed, or deprived of necessary sustenance
- Any animal
§ 14-360(a1) A person is guilty of a Class H felony animal cruelty charge if he or she:
- Kills, or causes or procures to be killed
- Any animal
- By intentional deprivation of necessary sustenance
§ 14-360(b) A person is guilty of a Class H felony animal cruelty charge if he or she:
- Tortures, mutilates, maims, cruelly beats, disfigures, poisons, or kills, or causes or procures to be tortured, mutilated, maimed, cruelly beaten, disfigured, poisoned, or killed
- Any animal
For the purposes of this statute, any animal is defined as including “every living vertebrate in the classes Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia except human beings.” Furthermore, lawful hunting is one of a few exceptions to the statute, meaning the legal act of killing animals for the primary purpose of providing food for human consumption is not prohibited.
Some animal cruelty crimes are felonies, as in the two above under § 14-360(a1) and (b). The other animal cruelty offenses that result in felony charges are cockfighting (Class I felony), animal fights and baiting under § 14-362.1(d) (Class I felony), and dog fighting and baiting (Class H Felony).
The animal cruelty crimes that warrant a Class 1 misdemanor charge are cruetly to animals under § 14-360(a), instigating or promoting cruelty to animals, restraining dogs in a cruel manner, and conveying animals in a cruel manner. Class 2 misdemeanor charges are brought for the crimes of abandonment of animals and animal fights and baiting under § 14-362.1(a-c). Furthermore, Class 3 misdemeanor charges are brought against people who violate § 14-363.1, disposing of living baby chicks or other fowl, or rabbits under eight weeks of age as pets or novelties.
Felony animal cruelty convictions impose a maximum sentence of up to thirty months in jail and up to nine months of supervision upon release. Class 1 misdemeanors impose a maximum sentence of up to 120 days in jail, and the court may impose a fine at their discretion. Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by up to sixty days in jail and a $1,000 fine, while Class 3 misdemeanors are punishable by up to twenty days in jail and a $200 fine.