Maltreatment of a pet: what penalties? How to report it?


Violence, undernourishment, confinement, abandonment… Animal abuse has many faces. What to do if you witness the abuse of a pet? Who to contact to denounce facts of negligence or cruelty? What are the penalties incurred by the perpetrator? Our responses.

Ill-treatment: what legal definition?

In France, the law in force considers all domestic animals to be sensitive which must be placed by its owner in conditions compatible with the biological requirements of its species. As such, it is not allowed from:

  • deprive an animal of food and water;
  • leave it without care in the event of illness or injury;
  • place and maintain it in a habitat or environment that may be a cause of suffering, injury or accidents. This applies in particular when thehabitat – too small – does not offer bearable climatic conditions or includes materials, installations or fittings unsuitable for the animal;
  • use, except in cases of absolute necessity,attached, restraint, fencing, cages or any form of detention that is unsuitable or likely to cause injury or suffering;
  • implement techniques ofbreeding likely to cause him unnecessary pain.

Examples : the fact of hanging saucepans on the tail of a dog, of leaving it tied in the open air and / or with a sliding chain of less than 2.5 m (or less than 3 m for any other fastening device), to keep it locked in a car trunk without a ventilation system, etc …

Sanctions : persons not respecting these obligations incur a fine of 750 €. In addition, the court may decide to permanently entrust the animal to a foundation or a protection association.

What is the offense of abandoning animals?

The offense of abandoning animals consists of knowingly abandoning one’s animal, that is to say refuse to care for it, to feed it, to water it, to provide it with shelter. So, abandon your pet on the public highway or in nature (motorway area, in a field, a forest, etc.) is a case of mistreatment.

Sanctions : under the terms of article 521-1 of the Penal Code, the author of the abandonment incurs 2 years of imprisonment and a 30,000 € fine. To this maximum penalty may be added penalties of prohibition, definitive or not, of keeping animals and of prohibition, for a maximum of 5 years, from exercising the professional activity which made it possible to prepare or carry out the abandonment. .

To know : the fact of abandoning your animal in a refuge, by signing an abandonment contract is not criminally reprehensible.

What penalties for abuse and acts of cruelty?

Abuse is distinguished from acts of cruelty by the degree of suffering inflicted on the animal. Abuse and acts of cruelty are acts performed intentionallyt for the purpose of causing suffering or death.

Sanctions : the person who exercises, publicly or not, serious abuse, or of a sexual nature, or who commits an act of cruelty towards a domestic animal incurs 2 years of prison and 30 000 € of fine. At the same time, the court can decide:

  • The final withdrawal of the animal;
  • The prohibition, definitive or not, to keep an animal;
  • Prohibition, for a maximum of 5 years, from exercising the professional activity which made it possible to prepare or commit the abuses and acts of cruelty.

What penalties for attacking the integrity or the life of an animal?

Injure or kill an animal involuntarily is punished by a fine of 450 €. This applies whether the injury or death is caused by clumsiness, recklessness, inattention, negligence or failure to comply with an obligation of safety or prudence imposed by law.

The person who kills voluntarily an unnecessarily domestic animal, publicly or not, incurs a fine of € 1,500 and € 3,000 in the event of a repeat offense.

How do I report a case of abuse?

It is imperative to act at the first signs of abuse because you can save a life. Therefore, if you witness mistreatment, abandonment or cruelty to an animal, proceedings to be undertaken are the following:

  • Contact the authorities. Only the police, the gendarmerie and the Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations (DDPP or DDCSPP) are authorized to intervene and draw up a minutes. Do not try to fix the problem on your own as you risk putting yourself in an awkward position with the owner or being injured by the ailing animal. Give the authorities as much information as possible to try to help them. If you feel any reluctance, you can write directly to the District Attorney the tribunal de grande instance on which the territory in which the facts were established depends, preferably by registered letter.

To know : the direct witness of a scene of violence can file a complaint. The intervention of an animal protection organization, via the constitution of civil party, will help to give weight to the case.

  • Request a refuge, a foundation or the SPA. Many animal protection structures have a network of informants and investigators capable of carrying out investigations in connection with the gendarmerie and the veterinary services. They will be able to take charge of the case and gather sufficient evidence to file a complaint.

To note : these associations are not authorized to seize animals without being duly mandated by the authorities (gendarmerie, police, prefecture services, justice).

  • Collect information. When we witness acts of mistreatment of a dog, a cat, a horse or any other domestic animal, it is important to denounce the facts but also to gather evidence. To be able to condemn a person, a judge will rely on the elements in his possession. Take notes, photos, videos with your phone. If possible, take statements from other witnesses and the neighborhood. The more information there is, the more likely the case will be brought to justice.

Caution : be discreet and act without putting yourself in danger. Do not enter private property and obey the law because in the event of an offense, the evidence will lose its legal value.

  • Do not report on social networks. In the event of animal abuse and under the influence of emotion, it is sometimes tempting to denounce the perpetrator by posting a photo or video on the internet. However, it is strongly recommended not to act in this way because this action can endanger the life of the person responsible for the malicious acts and therefore, legally turn against you.

Important : if you notice cases of animal abuse on the internet through photos or videos, it is strongly recommended to send the link from the web page to the site Pharos, official portal for reporting illegal content on the web. This platform is managed by specialized police and gendarmes who can direct the report to an investigation service.

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