The FBI defines animal cruelty as:
Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.
All 50 states now have felony animal cruelty provisions
and the FBI will begin tracking animal cruelty as a "crime against society" in January of 2015 on the Uniform Crime Reporting Database.
This guide will explore the criminal punishments for animal cruelty, but it should be noted there are civil penalties for acts of animal cruelty at the state and federal level. Refer to the sources on the General Information
tab for resources that can assist you in researching the civil side of animal cruelty.