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Tennessee
Anti-Cruelty Statutes

TENNESSEE CODE
TITLE 39 CRIMINAL OFFENSES
CHAPTER 14 OFFENSES AGAINST PROPERTY
Part 2-- Animals

39-14-201. Definitions for animal offenses
As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Animal" means a domesticated living creature or a wild creature previously captured;

(2) "Livestock" means all equine as well as animals which are being raised primarily for use as food or fiber for human utilization or consumption including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and poultry;

(3) "Non-livestock animal" means a pet normally maintained in or near the household or households of its owner or owners, other domesticated animal, previously captured wildlife, an exotic animal, or any other pet, including but not limited to, pet rabbits, a pet chick, duck, or pot bellied pig that is not classified as "livestock" pursuant to this part; and

(4) "Torture" means every act, omission, or neglect whereby unreasonable physical pain, suffering, or death is caused or permitted, but nothing in this part shall be construed as prohibiting the shooting of birds or game for the purpose of human food or the use of animate targets by incorporated gun clubs.

39-14-202. Cruelty to animals
(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly:

  • (1) Tortures, maims or grossly overworks an animal;

  • (2) Fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter for an animal in the person's custody;

  • (3) Abandons unreasonably an animal in the person's custody;

  • (4) Transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner; or

  • (5) Inflicts burns, cuts, lacerations, or other injuries or pain, by any method, including blistering compounds, to the legs or hooves of horses in order to make them sore for any purpose including, but not limited to, competition in horse shows and similar events.

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person was engaged in accepted veterinary practices, medical treatment by the owner or with the owner's consent, or bona fide experimentation for scientific research.

(c) Whenever any person is taken into custody by any officer for violation of subdivision (a)(4), the officer may take charge of the vehicle or conveyance, and its contents, used by the person to transport the animal. The officer shall deposit these items in a safe place for custody. Any necessary expense incurred for taking charge of and sustaining the same shall be a lien thereon, to be paid before the same can lawfully be recovered; or the expenses, or any part thereof, remaining unpaid may be recovered by the person incurring the same of the owners of the animal in an action therefor.

(d) In addition to the penalty imposed in subsection (f), the court making the sentencing determination for a person convicted under this section shall order the person convicted to surrender custody and forfeit the animal or animals whose treatment was the basis of the conviction. Custody shall be given to a humane society incorporated under the laws of this state. The court may prohibit the person convicted from having custody of other animals for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable, or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person's custody of animals as necessary for the protection of the animals.

(e) (1) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the owner of a farm animal or someone acting with the consent of the owner of such animal from engaging in usual and customary practices which are accepted by colleges of agriculture or veterinary medicine with respect to such animal.

  • (2) It is an offense for a person other than a law enforcement officer acting with probable cause to knowingly interfere with the performance of any such agricultural practices permitted by subdivision (e)(1).

  • (3) An offense under subdivision (e)(2) is a Class B misdemeanor.

(f) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

39-14-212. Aggravated cruelty to animals -- Definitions -- Construction -- Penalty
(a) A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when, with aggravated cruelty and with no justifiable purpose, such person intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal.

(b) For purposes of this section:

  • (1) "Aggravated cruelty" means conduct which is done or carried out in a depraved and sadistic manner and which tortures or maims an animal;

  • (2) "Companion animal" means any non-livestock animal as defined in § 39-14-201(3);

  • (3) "Elderly" means any person sixty-five (65) years of age or older; and

  • (4) "Minor" means any person under eighteen (18) years of age.

(c) The provisions of subsection (a) shall not be construed to prohibit or interfere with the following endeavors:

  • (1) The provisions of this section shall not be construed to change, modify, or amend any provision of title 70, involving fish and wildlife;

  • (2) The provisions of this section do not apply to activities or conduct that are prohibited by § 39-14-203;

  • (3) The provisions of this section do not apply to equine animals or to animals defined as livestock by the provisions of § 39-14-201;

  • (4) Dispatching an animal in any manner absent of aggravated cruelty;

  • (5) Engaging in lawful hunting, trapping, or fishing activities, including activities commonly associated with the hunting of small game as defined in § 70-1-101(a)(34);

  • (6) Dispatching rabid or diseased animals;

  • (7) Dispatching animals posing a clear and immediate threat to human safety;

  • (8) Performing or conducting bona fide scientific tests, experiments or investigations within or for a bona fide research laboratory, facility or institution;

  • (9) Performing accepted veterinary medical practices or treatments;

  • (10) Dispatching animals in accordance with § 44-17-403(e);

  • (11) Engaging, with the consent of the owner of a farm animal, in usual and customary practices which are accepted by colleges of agriculture or veterinary medicine with respect to such animal;

  • (12) Dispatching wild or abandoned animals on a farm or residential real property; or

  • (13) Applying methods and equipment used to train animals.

(d) (1) A first-time conviction for aggravated cruelty to animals is a Class A misdemeanor.

  • (2) Any subsequent conviction for aggravated cruelty to animals is a Class E felony.

(e) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the sentencing court may order the defendant to surrender custody and forfeit all companion animals as defined in subdivision (b)(2), and may award custody of such animals to the agency presenting the case. The court may prohibit the defendant from having custody of other animals for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable, or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person's custody of animals as is necessary for the protection of the animals.

(f) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the court may require the defendant to undergo psychological evaluation and counseling, the cost to be borne by the defendant. If the defendant is indigent, the court may, where practicable, direct the defendant to locate and enroll in a counseling or treatment program with an appropriate agency.

(g) If a defendant convicted of a violation of this section resides in a household with minor children or elderly individuals, the court may, within fifteen (15) days, send notification of the conviction to the appropriate protective agencies.

(h) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the defendant may be held liable to the impounding officer or agency for all costs of impoundment from the time of seizure to the time of proper disposition of the case.

(i) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the defendant may be held liable to the owner of the animal for damages.

(j) If a juvenile is found to be within the court's jurisdiction, for conduct that, if committed by an adult, would be a criminal violation involving cruelty to animals or would be a criminal violation involving arson, then the court may order that the juvenile be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological treatment. If the court determines that psychiatric or psychological treatment is appropriate for that juvenile, then the court may order that treatment.

(k) This section does not preclude the court from entering any other order of disposition allowed under this chapter.

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