Can You Go to Jail for Killing a Dog in Utah?

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime in Utah, it is essential to contact our skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys as soon as you can. A criminal conviction can have lasting consequences on your life and make it hard to do things such as finding a job or applying for a loan. While many people do not believe they would get in trouble if they kill a dog, the truth is that, in Utah, unless you have a legal reason to kill a canine, you can be charged with a crime. Over the years, there have been cases where individuals have faced severe criminal penalties for engaging in animal cruelty. Will you go to jail for killing a dog in Utah? Darwin Overson from Overson Law PLLC explains.

What happens if You Kill a Dog in Utah?

Utah, like other states, has laws protecting animals against abuse. These protections extend to domestic animals such as dogs and cats and are meant to punish abusers. If you kill a dog without any justifiable reason in Utah, you can face severe consequences. Your penalties can be more severe if you kill a police dog (K-9). If convicted for killing another person’s dog, you can face jail time and hefty criminal fines.

Charges for killing a dog without legal justification can be found under Utah Code § 76-9-301. According to this statute, killing a dog is considered animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is defined as intentionally, recklessly, or negligently failing to provide a dog with care or shelter. According to § 76-9-301, proper shelter and care include providing a dog with adequate food, water, and shelter (such as a kennel, house, or other space for his protection). Exposing your dog to malnutrition, dehydration, and lack of proper shelter can be classified as animal cruelty.

Additionally, this legal statute classifies abandoning, cruelly transporting a dog, injuring a dog, or making a dog fight with another as animal cruelty. Utah Code § 76-9-301 also makes a critical distinction. You can face aggravated animal cruelty charges depending on different factors. For example, suppose you intentionally torture, administer poison, kill, or cause the animal to be killed without a legal right. In that case, you can be charged with aggravated animal cruelty and face prison time and fines.

Your penalties can be even harsher if you intentionally or knowingly kill a police dog. According to Utah Code § 79-9-306, knowingly or intentionally killing a police service dog can lead to third or second-degree felony charges. If you are convicted of felony charges, you can face years in prison and hefty criminal fines.

Understanding Criminal Penalties for Killing a Dog in Utah

Utah divides crimes into two major categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors represent lesser criminal offenses, while felonies are more serious. Each of these categories is subdivided and have set penalties depending on the crime.

In Utah, misdemeanors are divided into Classes A, B, and C. Class C misdemeanors are the less severe types of criminal offenses and often carry lesser penalties. If you are convicted for a Class C misdemeanor, you can face up to 90 days in jail and up to $750 in fines. However, if you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, your penalties can increase to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. If you are charged and convicted of animal cruelty or aggravated animal cruelty, you can face jail time, fines, and a criminal record.

If you kill a police dog in Utah, your charges can be upgraded to a felony. Felonies are the most severe types of criminal charges you can be accused of. These crimes are divided into three degrees; the lower the degree number, the higher your penalties will be. Third-degree felonies are the lesser type of felony charges in Utah. If convicted, you can face up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. If you are convicted for a second-degree felony, you can face up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If you are found guilty of knowingly and intentionally killing a K-9 police dog, you can face second-degree felony charges. However, if you cause bodily injury, poison, or engage in conduct likely to harm a K-9 police dog, you can face third-degree felony charges.

Can I Defend Against Charges for Killing a Dog in Utah?

Despite animal cruelty charges being particularly damaging, there are ways you can fight them. In Utah, you may be able to use lethal force against a dog in specific circumstances. According to Utah R-657-63, a person can justifiably and legally kill or seriously injure a threatening dog when they reasonably believe doing so will prevent an imminent attack that will likely result in serious bodily injury or death.

In determining whether killing a dog in self-defense was justified, the court will consider several elements. These elements include the nature of the danger present in your situation, the immediacy of such a danger, the probability of an imminent attack, and the probability of the attack resulting in serious bodily injury or death.

As we have previously discussed, the criminal penalties associated with animal cruelty can be severe. Therefore, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney who can help you fight against your charges. Our team of skilled criminal defense lawyers can help you with these legal matters.

Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys Offering Free Consultations

Facing the stringent Utah criminal justice system can be challenging and overwhelming. However, you don’t have to go through this trying time alone. Our Riverton City criminal defense attorneys from Overson & Bugden understand how difficult facing criminal charges can be. That is why we can fight aggressively and strategically to help you defend against your criminal charges. If you or a loved one was charged with killing a dog in Utah, you need immediate legal assistance. Call our law offices today and schedule your free, confidential consultation. Our phone number is (801) 758-2287.