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Animals have the same basic needs for survival as humans; food, water, and shelter. You’d think it a no-brainer, but alas, some people just haven’t experienced that “ah-ha” moment yet. We see evidence of this in the daily news.

So, for those of you still clueless or otherwise needing a refresher, I’ve taken the liberty of outlining the basic requirements for animal care for Missouri.

Missouri law requires all animal owners to provide the following minimum care for all animals in their possession.

Adequate food
The provision (food), at suitable intervals of not more than twelve hours, unless the dietary requirements of the species require a longer interval, of a quantity of wholesome foodstuff, suitable for the species and age, sufficient to maintain a reasonable level of nutrition in each animal, all of which foodstuff is served in a safe receptacle, dish, or container.

Adequate housing

The continuous provision of a sanitary facility, protection from the extremes of weather conditions, proper ventilation, and appropriate space depending on the species of animal, as defined by regulations of the USDA, as revised.

Adequate water

The provision, either continuously or at intervals suitable to the species, which intervals shall not exceed eight hours, of a supply of potable water in a safe receptacle, dish, or container.

Read the full set of laws here

How to file a report of animal neglect and/or abuse and to who.

It’s the first reaction for most people to contact their local animal welfare organizations ( i.e. local shelter or pet rescue) when reporting abuse and/or neglect. And the people in those organizations really do want to help you. But here’s what we run into.

Most local shelters and rescues do not have the investigative staff to work animal “cases”. And even if they did, they have no legal authority to act on any report you make without being accompanied by law enforcement and/or the state veterinarian, and typically only by a judge’s order.

So your first step should be to contact your local law enforcement. If you live within city limits file your report with the city police. If you live out in the county, file your report with the county sheriff’s office.

If those agencies do not have the resources to accommodate your complaint they will refer the report to an animal agency such as the Humane Society of Missouri that does have a full investigative unit and task force.

After you’ve made your official report to law enforcement follow up the next day. Find out if the case been looked at yet or if it has been referred to an animal agency. Continue to follow up until there has been a resolution.

Animal abuse and neglect is a crime. Insist that your report is taken seriously.

The following penalties apply to neglect and abuse cases that have been proven.

578.009. Animal neglect–penalties–costs and expenses
1. A person is guilty of animal neglect when he has custody or ownership or both of an animal and fails to provide adequate care or adequate control, which results in substantial harm to the animal.

2. A person is guilty of abandonment when he has knowingly abandoned an animal in any place without making provisions for its adequate care.

3. Animal neglect and abandonment is a class C misdemeanor upon first conviction and for each offense, punishable by imprisonment or a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars, or both, and a class B misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment or a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars, or both upon the second and all subsequent convictions. All fines and penalties for a first conviction of animal neglect or abandonment may be waived by the court provided that the person found guilty of animal neglect or abandonment shows that adequate, permanent remedies for the neglect or abandonment have been made. Reasonable costs incurred for the care and maintenance of neglected or abandoned animals may not be waived. This section shall not apply to the provisions of section 578.007.

4. In addition to any other penalty imposed by this section, the court may order a person found guilty of animal neglect or abandonment to pay all reasonable costs and expenses necessary for:
(1) The care and maintenance of neglected or abandoned animals within the person’s custody or ownership;
(2) The disposal of any dead or diseased animals within the person’s custody or ownership;
(3) The reduction of resulting organic debris affecting the immediate area of the neglect or abandonment; and
(4) The avoidance or minimization of any public health risks created by the neglect or abandonment of the animals.

578.012. Animal abuse–penalties
1. A person is guilty of animal abuse when a person:
(1) Intentionally or purposely kills an animal in any manner not allowed by or expressly exempted from the provisions of sections 578.005 to 578.023 and 273.030, RSMo;
(2) Purposely or intentionally causes injury or suffering to an animal; or
(3) Having ownership or custody of an animal knowingly fails to provide adequate care or adequate control.

2. Animal abuse is a class A misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously plead guilty to or has been found guilty of animal abuse or the suffering involved in subdivision (2) of subsection 1 of this section is the result of torture or mutilation, or both, consciously inflicted while the animal was alive, in which case it is a class D felony.

To see Missouri’s anti-cruelty laws in full click here.

Missouri is currently proposing a bill before the Missouri Legislature that would allow judges to order people convicted of animal abuse to undergo treatments that could include psychiatric or psychological evaluations. Read more.

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