Magna, UT asked in Animal / Dog Law for Utah

Q: Could I press charges against somebody who has fed my dogs without permission?

I have a neighbor that has fed my dogs many times and has been caught doing so, and we have approached him multiple times and he denies doing it though we have caught and approached him in the act! He has made both of our dog extremely sick, and almost killed one when she was younger. The first time we caught him, he had fed them a huge bowl full of taco meat heavily seasoned and will not stop feeding them no matter how many times we tell him to and threaten to call the police! I’m just wondering if I would have grounds to press charges against him? He has also tried to get them taken from us by animal control by telling them we neglect them though they have plenty of food, water, walks, play time, and socialization. We spend more time on them then we do on anything else.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brian Craig
Brian Craig

A: A pet owner could file a complaint with the local police department for animal cruelty. Utah Code Ann. sec. 76-9-301 states that "a person is guilty of cruelty to an animal if the person . . . intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence . . . injures an animal."

Feeding a neighbor's pet that results in injury to the animal could be considered cruelty if the animal experienced health issues. After investigation by the local police, the county attorney's office would then decide if the case warrants prosecution. If the local police refuse to investigate, consider contacting the county attorney office directly. The punishment is a class B misdemeanor if committed intentionally or knowingly or a a class C misdemeanor if committed recklessly or with criminal negligence.

Along with filing a criminal complaint with the local police department, the pet owner could also bring a civil action against the neighbor under tort law for conversion, trespass to chattel, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Conversion would be the best action if the dog died. Otherwise, trespass to chattel would be the best theory of recovery. Trespass to chattel involves personal property, including pets. The damages could include veterinary expenses and other related damages.

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