Title 16, Chapter 12, Section 4
(a) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) "Animal" shall not include any fish nor shall such term
include any pest that might be exterminated or removed from a
business, residence, or other structure.
(2) "Conviction" shall include pleas of guilty or nolo contendere
or probation as a first offender pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter
8 of Title 42 and any conviction, plea of guilty or nolo
contendere, or probation as a first offender for an offense under
the laws of the United States or any of the several states that
would constitute a violation of this Code section if committed in
(3) "Willful neglect" means the intentional withholding of food
and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or
(b) A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he or
she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any
animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect. Any person
convicted of a violation of this subsection shall be guilty of a
misdemeanor; provided, however, that:
(1) Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent
violation of this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment not
to exceed 12 months, a fine not to exceed $5,000.00, or both; and
(2) Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent
violation of this subsection which results in the death of an
animal shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated
nature and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than
three months nor more than 12 months, a fine not to exceed
$10,000.00, or both, which punishment shall not be suspended,
probated, or withheld.
(c) A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal's body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal. A person convicted of the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed $15,000.00, or both, provided that any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed the amount provided by Code Section 17-10-8, or both.
(d) Before sentencing a defendant for any conviction under this Code
section, the sentencing judge may require psychological evaluation
of the offender and shall consider the entire criminal record of the
(e) The provisions of this Code section shall not be construed as
prohibiting conduct which is otherwise permitted under the laws of
this state or of the United States, including, but not limited to,
agricultural, animal husbandry, butchering, food processing,
marketing, scientific, research, medical, zoological, exhibition,
competitive, hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife management, or
pest control practices or the authorized practice of veterinary
medicine nor to limit in any way the authority or duty of the
Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, any
county board of health, any law enforcement officer, dog, animal, or
rabies control officer, humane society, veterinarian, or private
landowner protecting his or her property.
(f)(1) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed as
prohibiting a person from:
(A) Defending his or her person or property, or the person or
property of another, from injury or damage being caused by an
(B) Injuring or killing an animal reasonably believed to
constitute a threat for injury or damage to any property,
livestock, or poultry.
(2) The method used to injure or kill such animal shall be
designed to be as humane as is possible under the circumstances.
A person who humanely injures or kills an animal under the
circumstances indicated in this subsection shall incur no civil or
criminal liability for such injury or death.