Human hands hold the face of a scarred, black dog

What is Animal Cruelty?

A summary of Pennsylvania's animal cruelty laws

The Pennsylvania SPCA enforces the animal cruelty laws of the Commonwealth in 23 counties. Under Pennsylvania law, cruelty to animals includes:

Neglect of animal, including failure to provide:

  • Food and water
  • Clean and sanitary shelter and protection from weather
  • Necessary veterinary care

Cruelty to animal: A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly illtreats, overloads, beats, tortures, abandons or abuses an animal.

Tethering of unattended dog. An unattended dog may only be tethered for nine hours or less in a 24-hour period, and must meet the following criteria: 

  • The tether must be of a type commonly used for the size and breed of dog and is at least three times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail or 10 feet, whichever is longer.
  • The tether must be secured to a well-fitted collar or harness by means of a swivel anchor, swivel latch or other mechanism designed to prevent the dog from becoming entangled.
  • The tethered dog must have access to water and an area of shade to escape the direct rays of the sun.
  • The dog may not be tethered for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Transporting animals in cruel manner.

Animal mutilation and related offenses, including:

  • Cropping of ear.
  • Debarking
  • Docking of tail
  • Surgical birth
  • Dewclawing of a dog

Animal fighting.

  • Causing or allowing an animal to engage in animal fighting
  • Receiving compensation for the admission of another person to a place kept or used for animal fighting
  • Owning, training, promoting, purchasing or acquiring in any manner or knowingly selling an animal for animal fighting
  • Wagering on the outcome of an animal fight
  • Attending an animal fight
  • Knowingly permiting a place under the person's control or possession to be kept or used for animal fighting

Possession of animal fighting paraphernalia.

Taunting or abusing Police animals.