Code of the District of Columbia

§ 22–1001. Definitions and penalties.

(a)(1) Whoever knowingly overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly chains, cruelly beats or mutilates, any animal, or knowingly causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly chained, cruelly beaten, or mutilated, and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, knowingly inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the same, or unnecessarily fails to provide the same with proper food, drink, air, light, space, veterinary care, shelter, or protection from the weather, shall for every such offense be punished by imprisonment in jail not exceeding 180 days, or by fine not exceeding $250, or by both.

(2) The court may order a person convicted of cruelty to animals:

(A) To obtain psychological counseling, psychiatric or psychological evaluation, or to participate in an animal cruelty prevention or education program, and may impose the costs of the program or counseling on the person convicted;

(B) To forfeit any rights in the animal or animals subjected to cruelty;

(C) To repay the reasonable costs incurred prior to judgment by any agency caring for the animal or animals subjected to cruelty; and

(D) Not to own or possess an animal for a specified period of time.

(3) The court may order a child adjudicated delinquent for cruelty to animals to undergo psychiatric or psychological evaluation, or to participate in appropriate treatment programs or counseling, and may impose the costs of the program or counseling on the person adjudicated delinquent.

(b) For the purposes of this section, “cruelly chains” means attaching an animal to a stationary object or a pulley by means of a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or similar restraint under circumstances that may endanger its health, safety, or well-being. Cruelly chains includes, but is not limited to, the use of a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable or similar restraint that:

(1) Exceeds 1/8 the body weight of the animal;

(2) Causes the animal to choke;

(3) Is too short for the animal to move around or for the animal to urinate or defecate in a separate area from the area where it must eat, drink, or lie down;

(4) Is situated where it can become entangled;

(5) Does not permit the animal access to food, water, shade, dry ground, or shelter; or

(6) Does not permit the animal to escape harm.

(c) For the purposes of this section, “serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, mutilation, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ. Serious bodily injury includes, but is not limited to, broken bones, burns, internal injuries, severe malnutrition, severe lacerations or abrasions, and injuries resulting from untreated medical conditions.

(d) Except where the animal is an undomesticated and dangerous animal such as rats, bats, and snakes, and there is a reasonable apprehension of an imminent attack by such animal on that person or another, whoever commits any of the acts or omissions set forth in subsection (a) of this section with the intent to commit serious bodily injury or death to an animal, or whoever, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to animal life, commits any of the acts or omissions set forth in subsection (a) of this section which results in serious bodily injury or death to the animal, shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or by a fine not exceeding $25,000, or both.


(Aug. 23, 1871, Leg. Assem., p. 135, ch. 106, § 1; Aug. 20, 1994, D.C. Law 10-151, § 102(a), 41 DCR 2608; June 8, 2001, D.C. Law 13-303, § 2(a), 47 DCR 7307; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 108(a), 55 DCR 9186.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-801.

1973 Ed., § 22-801.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-2033, § 22-951, § 22-1002, § 22-1006, § 22-1006.01, § 22-1007, § 22-1009, § 22-1011, § 22-1012, and § 22-1013.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-303 rewrote the section which had read:

“Whoever overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills, or causes or procures to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed any animal, and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the same, or unnecessarily fails to provide the same with proper food, drink, shelter, or protection from the weather, shall for every such offense be punished by imprisonment in jail not exceeding 180 days, or by fine not exceeding $250, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

D.C. Law 17-281, in subsec. (a), designated par. (1) and added pars. (2) and (3).

Cross References

Elderly or handicapped tenants, removal of dangerous pets, see § 8-2203.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-8, Feb. 21, 2017, 64 DCR 2345).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 102(a) of the Omnibus Criminal Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 1994 (D.C. Act 10-255, June 22, 1994, 41 DCR 4286).