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West Virginia

West's Annotated Code of West Virginia. Chapter 61. Crimes and Their Punishment. Article 8. Crimes Against Chastity, Morality and Decency. Chapter 7. County Commissions and Officers. Article 10. Humane Officers

Statute Details
Printable Version
Citation: W. Va. Code, 7-10-1 - 5; 61-8-19 - 23

Citation: WV ST 7-10-1 - 5; 61-8-19 - 23


Last Checked by Web Center Staff: 10/2013

Summary:   These West Virginia statutes comprise the state's anti-cruelty and animal fighting provisions.  If any person cruelly mistreats, abandons or withholds proper sustenance, including food, water, shelter or medical treatment, necessary to sustain normal health and fitness or to end suffering or abandons any animal to die, or uses, trains or possesses any domesticated animal for the purpose of seizing, detaining or maltreating any other domesticated animal, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor.  If any person intentionally tortures or maliciously kills an animal, or causes, procures or authorizes any other person to torture or maliciously kill an animal, he or she is guilty of a felony.  The provisions of this section do not apply to lawful acts of hunting, fishing, trapping or animal training or farm livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife or game farm production and management.  The section also prohibits animal fighting as a misdemeanor unless the animals involved were wild game or fur-bearing animals, in which case it becomes a felony.


Statute in Full:

Chapter 7. County Commissions and Officers. Article 10. Humane Officers

§ 7-10-1. Deputy sheriffs as humane officers

§ 7-10-2. Duty of humane officers; reporting requirement when abuse or neglect of individuals suspected; prohibition against interference with humane officers; penalties

§ 7-10-3. Cruel treatment of animal drawing or in vehicle; custody and care thereof by humane officers

§ 7-10-4. Custody and care of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; hearing; bonds; liability for costs; liens; exclusions

§ 7-10-4a. Reporting of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; enforcement

§ 7-10-5. Destruction of animals 

Chapter 61. Crimes and Their Punishment.  Article 8. Crimes Against Chastity, Morality and Decency.

§ 61-8-19. Cruelty to animals; penalties; exclusions. 

§ 61-8-19a. Animal fighting ventures prohibited.

§ 61-8-19b. Attendance at animal fighting ventures prohibited; penalty.

§ 61-8-20. Keeping or using live birds to be shot at; penalty.

§ 61-8-21. Search warrants relating to cruelty to animals.

§ 61-8-22. Search warrants relating to birds and animals kept for fighting.

§ 61-8-23. Search without warrant where there is an exhibition of the fighting of birds or animals.


 

Chapter 7. County Commissions and Officers. Article 10. Humane Officers

§ 7-10-1. Deputy sheriffs as humane officers

The sheriff of each county of this state shall annually designate, by a record made in the office of the clerk of the county commission, one of his or her deputies to act as humane officer of the county; or, if the county commission and sheriff agree, the county dog warden may be designated to act as the humane officer or as an additional humane officer; any person designated to act as a humane officer and all peace officers designated by law as a humane officer or an additional humane officer shall investigate all complaints made to him or her of cruel or inhumane treatment of animals within the county and he or she shall personally see that the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals is enforced. The wilful failure of such designee to investigate any complaint made to him or her and to take proper measures in such case or to perform his or her duty in any other respect may constitute good cause for removal from employment.

Acts 1901, c. 4; Acts 1919, c. 118, § 14a; Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14a; Acts 1989, c. 44; Acts 1992, c. 102.

 

§ 7-10-2. Duty of humane officers; reporting requirement when abuse or neglect of individuals suspected; prohibition against interference with humane officers; penalties

(a) It is the duty of humane officers to prevent the perpetration or continuance of any act of cruelty upon any animal and to investigate and, upon probable cause, to cause the arrest and assist in the prosecution of any person engaging in such cruel and forbidden practices. Upon reasonable cause, and as provided by law, such officers have the right to access and inspection of records and property as may be reasonably necessary to any investigation.

(b) Whenever a humane officer, pursuant to an investigation of animal cruelty, forms a reasonable suspicion that a minor child, or incapacitated or elderly person, is the victim of abuse or neglect or has a suspicion of domestic violence, he or she shall report the suspicion and the grounds therefor. In the event of suspected child abuse or neglect, the humane officer shall report to the local child protective services agency of the Department of Health and Human Resources in accordance with the provisions of section five, article six-a, chapter forty-nine of this code. In the event of suspected abuse or neglect of an incapacitated or elderly person, he or she shall report to the department's local adult protective services agency in accordance with the provisions of section eleven, article six, chapter nine of this code. In the event of suspected domestic violence, he or she shall report to the State Police in accordance with the provisions of article twenty-seven, chapter forty-eight of this code.

(c) Any person who interferes with, obstructs or resists any humane officer in the discharge of his or her duty is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or confined in jail not more than thirty days, or both fined and confined. Any penalties imposed for a violation of this subsection shall be imposed in addition to any penalties the person incurs for cruel or inhumane treatment of any animal.

Acts 1901, c. 4; Acts 1919, c. 118, § 14b; Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14b; Acts 1991, c. 36; Acts 2006, c. 29, eff. 90 days after March 8, 2006.

 

§ 7-10-3. Cruel treatment of animal drawing or in vehicle; custody and care thereof by humane officers

When any person arrested is, at the time of such arrest, in charge of any vehicle drawn by or containing any animal cruelly treated, such officer shall take charge of such animal and of such vehicle and its contents, and of the animal or animals drawing the same, and shall, if the person in charge thereof be not the owner, give notice of such seizure to the owner, and provide for them until their owner shall take charge of the same; and if the person in charge of or driving such animals be the owner thereof, the same shall not be returned to him until he has been tried for the offense and acquitted, or if convicted, until he shall give bond in the penalty of five hundred dollars with approved security before the tribunal trying the case conditioned not to again cruelly treat such animals; and the officer shall have a lien upon such animals and the vehicle and its contents for the expenses of such care and provision, or such expenses or any part thereof remaining unpaid may be recovered by such humane officer in a civil action.

Acts 1901, c. 4, § 4; Acts 1919, c. 118, § 14c; Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14c.

 

§ 7-10-4. Custody and care of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; hearing; bonds; liability for costs; liens; exclusions

(a) Subject to the provisions of subsection (h) of this section, a humane officer shall take possession of any animal, including birds or wildlife in captivity, known or believed to be abandoned, neglected, deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter, medical care or reasonable protection from fatal freezing or heat exhaustion or cruelly treated or used as defined in sections nineteen and nineteen-a, article eight, chapter sixty-one of this code.

(b) The owner or persons in possession, if his or her identity and residence are known, of any animal seized pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be provided written notice of the seizure, his or her liability for the cost and care of the animal seized as provided in this section and the right to request a hearing in writing before a magistrate in the county where the animal was seized. The magistrate court shall schedule any hearing requested within ten working days of the receipt of the request. The failure of an owner or person in possession to request a hearing within five working days of the seizure is prima facie evidence of the abandonment of the animal. At the hearing, if requested, the magistrate shall determine by a preponderance of the evidence if the animal was abandoned, neglected or deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter, medical care or reasonable protection from fatal freezing or heat exhaustion or otherwise treated or used cruelly as set forth in this section.

(c)(1) If a hearing is requested and the magistrate finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the owner did abandon, neglect or cruelly treat the animal, or if no hearing is requested and the magistrate finds by a preponderance of the evidence, based upon the affidavit of the humane officer, that the owner did abandon, neglect or cruelly treat the animal, the magistrate shall enter an order awarding custody of the animal to any humane officer for further disposition in accordance with reasonable practices for the humane treatment of animals. After hearing the evidence, if the magistrate is not convinced the animal was neglected or cruelly treated, he or she may dismiss the action and order the animal be returned to the owner. If the magistrate finds in favor of the humane officer, the owner of the animal shall post a bond with the court in an amount sufficient to provide for the reasonable costs of care, medical treatment and provisions for the animal for at least thirty days. The bond shall be filed with the court within five days following the court's finding against the owner. At the end of the time for which expenses are covered by the original bond if the animal remains in the care of the humane officer and the owner desires to prevent disposition of the animal by the humane officer, the owner shall post an additional bond with the court within five days of the expiration of the original bond. During this period the humane officer is authorized to place the animal in a safe private home or other safe private setting in lieu of retaining the animal in an animal shelter. The person whose animal is seized is liable for all costs of the care of the seized animal.

(2) If a bond has been posted in accordance with subdivision (1) of this subsection, the custodial animal care agency may draw from the bond the actual reasonable costs incurred by the agency in providing care, medical treatment and provisions to the impounded animal from the date of the initial impoundment to the date of the final disposition of the animal.

(d) Any person whose animal is seized and against whom the magistrate enters a finding pursuant to this section is liable during any period it remains in the possession of the humane officer for the reasonable costs of care, medical treatment and provisions for the animal not covered by the posting of the bond as provided in subdivision (1), subsection (c) of this section. The magistrate shall require the person liable for these costs to post bond to provide for the maintenance of the seized animal. This expense, if any, becomes a lien on the animal and must be discharged before the animal is released to the owner. Upon dismissal or withdrawal of the complaint, any unused portion of posted bonds shall be returned to the owner. Upon a finding in favor of the humane officer, all interest in the impounded animal shall transfer to the humane officer for disposition in accordance with reasonable practices for the humane treatment of animals. Any additional expense above the value of the animal may be recovered by the humane officer or custodial agency.

(e) After the humane officer takes possession of the animal pursuant to a finding by a magistrate that the animal has been abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated and a licensed veterinarian determines that the animal should be humanely destroyed to end its suffering, the veterinarian may order the animal to be humanely destroyed and neither the humane officer, animal euthanasia technician nor the veterinarian is subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of the action.

(f)(1) The term “humanely destroyed” as used in this section means:

(A) Humane euthanasia of an animal by hypodermic injection by a licensed veterinarian or by an animal euthanasia technician certified in accordance with the provisions of article ten-a, chapter thirty of this code; or

(B) Any other humane euthanasia procedure approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States or the American Humane Association.

(2) The term “humanely destroyed” does not include euthanizing an animal by means of a gas chamber: Provided, That any county which has a gas chamber in operation as of the effective date of this section may continue to operate the gas chamber subject to the following: (1) The gas chamber shall be operated by an animal euthanasia technician certified pursuant to article ten-a, chapter thirty of this code; and (2) the gas chamber shall have been manufactured and installed by a person who regularly manufactures and installs gas chambers. The Board of Veterinary Medicine shall promulgate emergency rules regarding the inspection of gas chambers, pursuant to section fifteen, article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

(g) In case of an emergency in which an animal cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, an animal may be destroyed by shooting if:

(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and

(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the animal's suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

(h) The provisions of this section do not apply to farm livestock, as defined in subsection (d), section two, article ten-b, chapter nineteen of this code; poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock; poultry, gaming fowl, wildlife or game farm production and management; nor to the humane use of animals or activities regulated under and in conformity with the provisions of 7 U.S.C. § 2131, et seq., and the regulations promulgated thereunder.

(i) All persons or entities in the state performing euthanasia under this article shall register with the Board of Veterinary Medicine by December 31, 2009, in a manner to be prescribed by the board. The Board of Veterinary Medicine shall promulgate emergency rules relating to the registration of those performing animal euthanasia, pursuant to section fifteen, article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

CREDIT(S)

Acts 1901, c. 4, § 5; Acts 1919, c. 118, § 14d; Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14d; Acts 1979, c. 4; Acts 1991, c. 36; Acts 2001, c. 8, eff. 90 days after April 16, 2001; Acts 2003, c. 16, eff. 90 days after March 5, 2003; Acts 2008, c. 9, eff. June 4, 2008; Acts 2009, c. 9, eff. Aug. 27, 2009.

 

§ 7-10-4a. Reporting of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; enforcement

(a) It is the duty of any licensed veterinarian and the right of any other person to report to a humane officer any animal found, reasonably known or believed to be abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated as set forth in this article, and such veterinarian or other person may not be subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of such reporting.

(b) Any person who, with force, assaults, resists, or impedes any other person engaged in the reporting of abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated animals as provided for in this section is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than two hundred fifty nor more than one thousand dollars, or confined in the county jail not more than one year, or both so fined and confined.

Acts 1991, c. 36.

 

§ 7-10-5. Destruction of animals

Any humane officer or animal shelter lawfully may humanely destroy or cause to be humanely destroyed any animal in a manner consistent with the provisions of section four of this article when, in the judgment of the humane officer or director or supervisor of an animal shelter and upon the written certificate of a regularly licensed veterinary surgeon, the animal appears to be injured, disabled or diseased past recovery or the animal is unclaimed.

Acts 1901, c. 4, § 6; Acts 1919, c. 118, § 14e; Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14e; Acts 1989, c. 51; Acts 2001, c. 8, eff. 90 days after April 16, 2001.

 

Chapter 61. Crimes and Their Punishment.  Article 8. Crimes Against Chastity, Morality and Decency.

§ 61-8-19. Cruelty to animals; penalties; exclusions. 

 (a)(1) It is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly,

(A) mistreat an animal in cruel manner;

(B) abandon an animal;

(C) withhold,

(i) proper sustenance, including food or water;

(ii) shelter that protects from the elements of weather; or

(iii) medical treatment, necessary to sustain normal health and fitness or to end the suffering of any animal;

(D) abandon an animal to die;

(E) leave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result;

(F) ride an animal when it is physically unfit;

(G) bait or harass an animal for the purpose of making it perform for a person's amusement;

(H) cruelly chain or tether an animal; or

(I) use, train or possess a domesticated animal for the purpose of seizing, detaining or maltreating any other domesticated animal.

(2) Any person in violation of subdivision (1) of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than three hundred nor more than two thousand dollars or confined in jail not more than six months, or both.

(b) A person who intentionally tortures, or mutilates or maliciously kills an animal, or causes, procures or authorizes any other person to torture, mutilate or maliciously kill an animal, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in a correctional facility not less than one nor more than five years and be fined not less than one thousand dollars nor more than five thousand dollars. For the purposes of this subsection, "torture" means an action taken for the primary purpose of inflicting pain.

(c) A person, other than a licensed veterinarian or a person acting under the direction or with the approval of a licensed veterinarian, who knowingly and willfully administers or causes to be administered to any animal participating in any contest any controlled substance or any other drug for the purpose of altering or otherwise affecting said animal's performance is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than five hundred nor more than two thousand dollars.

(d) Any person convicted of a violation of this section forfeits his or her interest in any animal and all interest in the animal vests in the humane society or county pound of the county in which the conviction was rendered and the person is, in addition to any fine imposed, liable for any costs incurred or to be incurred by the humane society or county pound as a result.

(e) For the purpose of this section, the term "controlled substance" has the same meaning ascribed to it by subsection (d), section one hundred one, article one, chapter sixty-a of this code.

(f) The provisions of this section do not apply to lawful acts of hunting, fishing, trapping or animal training or farm livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife or game farm production and management, nor to humane use of animals or activities regulated under and in conformity with the provisions of 7 U.S.C. § 2131, et seq., and the regulations promulgated thereunder, as both statutes and regulations are in effect on the effective date of this section.

(g) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, any person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of subsection (a) is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be confined in jail for a period of not less than ninety days nor more than one year, fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than three thousand dollars, or both. The incarceration set forth in this subsection is mandatory unless the provisions of subsection (h) of this section are complied with.

(h)(1) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, no person who has been convicted of a violation of the provisions of subsection (a) or (b) of this section may be granted probation until the defendant has undergone a complete psychiatric or psychological evaluation and the court has reviewed the evaluation. Unless the defendant is determined by the court to be indigent, he or she is responsible for the cost of the evaluation.

(2) For any person convicted of a violation of subsection (a) or (b) of this section, the court may, in addition to the penalties provided in this section, impose a requirement that he or she complete a program of anger management intervention for perpetrators of animal cruelty. Unless the defendant is determined by the court to be indigent, he or she is responsible for the cost of the program.

(i) In addition to any other penalty which can be imposed for a violation of this section, a court shall prohibit any person so convicted from possessing, owning or residing with any animal or type of animal for a period of five years following entry of a misdemeanor conviction and fifteen years following entry of a felony conviction. A violation under this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and forfeiture of the animal.

Acts 1875, c. 74; Acts 1882, c. 123, § 14; Acts 1897, c. 32; Acts 1988, c. 40; Acts 1991, c. 36; Acts 1995, c. 82, eff. 90 days after March 10, 1995; Acts 2003, c. 17, eff. 90 days after Feb. 27, 2003; Acts 2005, c. 67, eff. 90 days after April 9, 2005; Acts 2008, c. 58, eff. June 5, 2008.

 

§ 61-8-19a. Animal fighting ventures prohibited.

(a) It is unlawful for any person to engage in, be employed at, or sell an admission to any animal fighting venture.

(b) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars, or confined in the county jail not exceeding one year, or both so fined and confined, and may be divested of ownership and control of such animals, and be liable for all costs for their care and maintenance: Provided, That if the animal is a wild animal, game animal or fur-bearing animal, as defined in section two, article one, chapter twenty of this code, or wildlife not indigenous to West Virginia, or of a canine, feline, porcine, bovine, or equine species whether wild or domesticated, the person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars, and imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than five years, or both fined and imprisoned.

Acts 1988, c. 41; Acts 1989, c. 51; Acts 1991, c. 36; Acts 2003, c. 18, eff. 90 days after March 8, 2003.

 

§ 61-8-19b Attendance at animal fighting ventures prohibited; penalty.

(a) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly attend an animal fighting venture involving animals as provided in subsections (a) and (b), section nineteen-a, article eight of this chapter.

(b) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars, or confined in the county or regional jail not more than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.

Acts 2003, c. 18, eff. 90 days after March 8, 2003.

 

§ 61-8-20. Keeping or using live birds to be shot at; penalty.

Whoever keeps or uses a live bird to be shot at either for amusement or as a test of skill in marksmanship, or shoots at a bird kept or used as aforesaid, or is a party to such shooting, or lets any building, room, field, or premises, or knowingly permits the use thereof, for the purpose of such shooting, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine of not more than fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one month, or by both. Nothing herein contained shall apply to the shooting of wild game.

Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14i.

 

§ 61-8-21. Search warrants relating to cruelty to animals.

If complaint is made to a court or magistrate which is authorized to issue warrants in criminal cases that the complainant believes, and has reasonable cause to believe, that the laws relative to cruelty to animals have been or are violated in any particular building or place, such court or magistrate, if satisfied that there is reasonable cause for such belief, shall issue a search warrant authorizing any sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or police officer to search such building or place; but no such search shall be made after sunset, unless specially authorized by the magistrate upon satisfactory cause shown.

Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14h.

 

§ 61-8-22. Search warrants relating to birds and animals kept for fighting.

If complaint is made to a court or magistrate authorized to issue warrants in criminal cases that the complainant believes, and has reasonable cause to believe, that preparations are being made for an exhibition of the fighting of birds, dogs, or other animals, or that such exhibition is in progress, or that birds, dogs, or other animals are kept or trained for fighting at any place or in any building or tenement, such court or magistrate, if satisfied that there is reasonable cause for such belief, shall issue a search warrant authorizing any sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable, or police officer, to search such place, building, or tenement at any hour of the day or night, and take possession of all such birds, dogs or other animals there found, and to arrest all persons there present at any such exhibition or where preparations for such an exhibition are being made, or where birds, dogs, or other animals are kept or trained for fighting.

Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14j.

 

§ 61-8-23. Search without warrant where there is an exhibition of the fighting of birds or animals.

Any officer authorized to serve criminal process may, without warrant, enter any place, building, or tenement in which there is an exhibition of the fighting of birds, dogs, or other animals, or in which preparations are being made for such an exhibition and arrest all persons there present and take possession of and remove from the place of seizure the birds, dogs, or other animals engaged in fighting or there found and intended to be used or engaged in fighting, or kept or trained for fighting and hold the same in custody subject to the order of the court as hereinafter provided. 

Acts 1923, c. 47, § 14k.

 



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