Colorado State Laws

"Animal abuse" is the term used to describe any use or treatment of animals that is cruel, regardless of whether the act is against the law. The term "animal cruelty" is sometimes used interchangeably with "animal abuse," but "animal cruelty" is also a legal term that describes acts
of animal abuse that are against the law. The state laws that protect animals from abuse are referred to as "animal cruelty statutes."

  • CRS 18-9-202 is the Colorado statute that prohibits cruelty to animals. This section makes it a crime to abuse, neglect, or abandon an animal for which the person has responsibility. Prosecutors can file this charge as a misdemeanor or a felony, and a conviction can carry up to 18 months of jail or prison on a first offense. Aggravated animal cruelty – severe, intentional mistreatment – is always a felony.

Section 18-9-202 reads that “(1) (a) A person commits cruelty to animals if he or she knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence overdrives, overloads, overworks, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, allows to be housed in a manner that results in chronic or repeated serious physical harm, carries or confines in or upon any vehicles in a cruel or reckless manner, engages in a sexual act with an animal, or otherwise mistreats or neglects any animal, or causes or procures it to be done, or, having the charge or custody of any animal, fails to provide it with proper food, drink, or protection from the weather consistent with the species, breed, and type of animal involved, or abandons an animal. (b) Any person who intentionally abandons a dog or cat commits the offense of cruelty to animals.”


  • Punishments for conviction of animal cruelty include jail times, fines, and anger
  • Perpetrators will also be ordered to forfeit their animals and may be forbidden to obtain
    more animals.

Technical Terms:

  • Neglect: Animal neglect or abandonment is a common type of animal cruelty where people do not provide adequate care for animals in their charge. The neglected animal may be their own pet, a farm animal, or wildlife. A neglected animal is not provided with proper food, water, veterinary care, shelter and socialization.
  • Abuse: there are two types of animal abuse: passive and active cruelty. active cruelty involves intentionally harming the animal.
  • Cruelty: “Cruelty to animals” comprises all forms of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. It makes no difference if the behavior was knowing, reckless, or negligent.
  • Aggravated animal cruelty is particularly egregious mental or physical mistreatment and extreme pain. It carries harsher punishments than ordinary animal cruelty.
  • Defendants face a separate charge for each animal they allegedly abused..