Public crimes

Animal Cruelty

The lawyers at Ashbach Law Offices, LLC provide aggressive, strong defense for those charged with animal cruelty offenses throughout Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Our goal is to aggressively protect you, your family and your interests from the prosecution, saving jail time, licenses, occupations and reputations. With offices in Marysville and Mill Creek, Washington, we are available to meet you discuss your case. We help good people in bad situations. Let us help you.

In General


“Animal” means every creature, alive or dead, other than a human being, for the purposes of the Animal Cruelty First Degree and Second Degree charges. For Animal Fighting, “animal” is restricted to dogs and male chickens.

Chapter 16.52 of the RCW is entitled “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” and sets out a list of offenses and punishment, as well as authorization for animal care and control agencies to enforce the listed set of laws. Commonly-charged allegations include Animal Cruelty First Degree, Animal Cruelty Second Degree and Animal Fighting. In addition to the possible criminal sanctions are secondary forms of punishment, including loss of animals and animal possession rights, forced reimbursement for the cost of prosecution, expenses incurred for the animal’s care and large civil penalties (fines) directly payable to the relevant county.

Animal Cruelty First Degree


There are three main ways in which Animal Cruelty First Degree can be allegedly committed. All three are Class C Felonies.

The primary method alleged is the intentional causing of substantial pain on, causing physical injury to or killing an animal by means causing undue suffering (or forcing a minor to do the same).

Other methods for allegedly committing Animal Cruelty First Degree include acting with criminal negligence, and causing the starvation, dehydration or suffocation in an animal that result in death or long, substantial and unjustifiable physical pain to that animal. Additionally, sexual conduct with an animal is also chargeable as Animal Cruelty First Degree.

If a person charged were convicted of this offense, that person would be prohibited from ever owning similar animals. This is a permanent prohibition, with no method of relief.

Animal Cruelty Second Degree


Animal Cruelty Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor. There are three main methods in which a prosecutor can charge this offense. First, by alleging a person knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, inflicted unnecessary pain on an animal. Second is by alleging that a person failed to provide the necessary shelter, sanitation or medical attention to an animal resulting in unnecessary or unjustifiable pain to the animal as a result. Third is abandonment of the animal.

For Animal Cruelty Second Degree, an affirmative defense exists, which the person charged must show at trial to be more likely than not. This defense is that the person’s charged actions were caused by economic distress beyond his or her control.

In addition to other penalties, a person convicted of Animal Cruelty Second Degree for the first time is prohibited from having similar animals for two years. Upon a second conviction, the prohibition is permanent, although this right may be restored five years after the second conviction by petitioning the court.

In the situation of multiple convictions, any sentences are to run consecutive to each other.

Animal Fighting


Animal Fighting is a Class C Felony. The Animal Fighting statute prohibits the owning, possession, breeding, training, buying, selling or advertising for sale any animal to be engaged in an exhibition of fighting with another animal.

The statute also prohibits promoting, organizing, advertising, participating in, and even being a spectator to, an exhibition of animal fighting. Even transporting spectators to a location for animal fighting is punishable as a Class C Felony under this statute.

Also prohibited is maintaining a place for animal fighting, charging for admission or taking a stray or pet animal for the purpose of animal fighting.

This statute is specifically related to dogs and male chickens. The use of dogs for hunting is specifically exempted.

Ashbach Law Offices, LLC, aggressively represents clients throughout the Washington I-5 corridor, covering Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Regular courts of practice include, but are not limited to, Anacortes, Arlington, Bellevue, Bellingham, Blaine, Burlington, Edmonds, Everett, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Marysville, Monroe, Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrance, Redmond, Seattle, Sedro Woolley and Shoreline.