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Cruelty to animals is prohibited under section 39-14-202 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. Cruelty to animals under state law is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $2500 fine. If convicted, a person may also be ordered to forfeit their animal(s) and be prohibited from owning more animals for a length of time determined by the judge. In addition, some counties and municipalities may have their own ordinances prohibiting cruelty to animals. Depending upon the county or municipality, cruelty ordinances may be enforced by animal control, the humane society, the sheriff's department or a police department. If the act of cruelty witnessed by an individual is an overt act such as beating an animal or cutting it's throat, then the person who witnessed the act must come forward to make the complaint and be willing to testify. The heresay rule prohibits a law enforcement or humane society official from charging someone with a crime based on what someone who wishes to remain anonymous and will not come forward to testify, told them. If the cruelty is an ongoing situation, such as an animal without adequate food, water or shelter, which a law enforcement or humane society official can witness themselves, then such an agency can file charges. Further, humane societies in Tennessee can only investigate cruelty in the county in which they are incorporated. Should you witness cruelty to animals, you must first determine which agency in your county or city enforces the cruelty statute(s) and make a report to them.

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