Skip to page content Skip to site navigation
Home :: Law Enforcement :: FAQs :: Animal Welfare
AG Chris Koster | FAQs
Missouri Attorney General

Frequently asked questions about animal welfare

Table of Contents

What is animal neglect?

Animal neglect occurs when a person 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.

Bessie, a dog

[ back to top ]

What is animal abuse?

Animal abuse encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. 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. 578.012, RSMo (2000)

Intentional abuse is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal. Refer to Missouri Revised Statute 578.012 for penalties and 578.005 for definition of “adequate care and control.”

[ back to top ]

Is there any evidence of a link between animal abuse and human violence?

Yes. Animal abuse may be an early or the only indication that an individual is developing a pattern of seeking power and control by inflicting suffering on others. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970’s. In homes where there is domestic violence and animals are present, the animal(s) may be harmed or threatened in order to control the victim.

[ back to top ]

Are other violent behaviors associated with animal cruelty?

Studies have identified connections between animal abuse and many different forms of family and societal violence. Pets are often the first victims of family or neighborhood disputes that escalate into violent and even fatal encounters between people.

[ back to top ]

In Missouri, who is responsible for enforcing the animal laws?

Enforcing animal abuse laws is the responsibility of local police or county officers.

[ back to top ]

Is animal abuse a crime?

Yes. In Missouri animal abuse is a class A misdemeanor. Where the defendant has previously pled guilty to or has been found guilty of animal abuse, or the animal’s suffering resulted from torture or mutilation, or both, it is a class D felony.

[ back to top ]

We don’t have a leash law in our town; what do I do about animals on the highway?

Even though many communities or counties in Missouri do not have “leash laws”, there is an “adequate control” law in Missouri. 578.012 RSMo (2000). Section 578.005 defines “adequate control” as requiring an owner to reasonably restrain or govern an animal so that it does not injure itself, another animal, a person or a property.

This means that if an animal is running loose and gets shot, hit by a car, attacks another animal, or chases children or livestock, for instance, then the owner may be criminally liable. It also does not mean the animal has to be off its own property for this to take effect. If an animal is chained out and jumps a fence or falls down a hill and hangs itself, the owner also may be in violation of adequate control laws.

[ back to top ]

My neighbor has about 30 dogs at their house. Can they have that many animals?

While some municipalities do have regulations on how many animals a person can own, there is no state law that governs number of animals. The owner must provide adequate care of all of the animals in his care or custody. If the owner is breeding and selling the animals, they may need to be licensed by the Missouri or United States Department of Agriculture.

[ back to top ]

How do I know if an animal is too thin?

Consult the Purina Body Condition Score chart for dogs and cats and the Henneke Body Condition Score chart for horses.

[ back to top ]

I have heard of Puppy Mills. What is a puppy mill and is it against the law?

A “puppy mill” is a generic name for a business that mass-produces puppies for sale. Over the last several years, it has come to represent a substandard commercial breeding facility. The substandard facility may be overcrowded, the animals underfed, asocial and in need of basic grooming and medical care. You may find anywhere from 20 to 1500 animals at one of these substandard facilities. However, commercial breeding facilities are legal provided they meet the standard of care required by law.

Bessie, a dog

[ back to top ]

State homepage   |    Missouri statutes   |    Forms   |    Site Map   |    Accessibility   |    Privacy Policy   |    Contact Us  Follow AGO on Twitter!  RSS Feed  RSS Feed