Cruelty to animals refers to the infliction of suffering or harm on animals for purposes other than self-defense. Laws concerning animal cruelty are designed to prevent needless cruelty to animals. Animal cruelty covers a wide range of actions or lack of action. Animal cruelty can be described as active or passive.
Passive cruelty is neglect, where the crime results from a lack of action. Severe animal neglect such as starvation, dehydration, parasite infestations, allowing a collar to grow into an animal’s skin, inadequate shelter in extreme weather conditions, and failure to seek veterinary care, can cause incredible pain and suffering to an animal.
Active cruelty refers to actions comitted with malicious intent, where a person has deliberately and intentionally caused harm to an animal.
Every state in the United States and the District of Columbia has a law prohibiting cruelty to animals. The purposes of these laws are to deter violence by humans and to protect animals from mistreatment and cruelty by imposing penalties on animal cruelty.
The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law which regulates research facilities and state and private run shelters and pounds.