For some time, people who have neglected their pets have been subject to animal cruelty violations.  Extreme cases of neglect are most likely to make it into the news cycles, like the case of the severe neglect of Patrick, a pit bull in Newark, who was found in an extremely emaciated condition at an apartment complex in Newark, nursed back to health, and became the namesake of an amendment to New Jersey’s animal cruelty statute.

Patrick’s Law increased both criminal and civil penalties for those convicted of or found civilly liable under the animal cruelty statute for:

“unnecessarily failing to provide a living animal or creature of which the person has charge either as an owner or otherwise with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather.” (emphasis added.)

For the most part, people are charged when, like in Patrick’s case, they fail to provide sufficient food to their pet to maintain a normal body weight.

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But suppose pet owners are charged for negligence when feeding their pets too much, or providing food that makes their pet sick?

Like some people, many pets are overweight.

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According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention “an estimated 52.6% of US dogs and 57.6% of US cats are overweight or obese.”

The Association identifies the following diseases/disorders that most commonly result from obesity:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

The American Veterinary Medical Association (“AVMA”) also provides guidance on the proper foods to feed and avoid.

According to the AVMA “7 foods you should avoid feeding your dog or cat” include:

  1. Xylitol-containing products (xylitol is an artificial sweetener often found in sugar-free candy and gum);
  2. Chocolate (although some types of chocolate are not as toxic as others, it’s safer to keep your pet away from all types of chocolate);
  3. Onions;
  4. Grapes and raisins;
  5. Fatty and fried foods;
  6. Macadamia nuts; and
  7. Avocados

These foods are toxic to dogs and/or cats or cause metabolic diseases or physical blockages.

Should an owner be charged with animal cruelty if their pet gets sick from such foods?  In New Jersey, a pet owner can be charged for negligence under the civil portion of the animal cruelty statute even if they did not know that their conduct could cause such harm.

Another common mistake is feeding holiday leftoevers to the family pet.

Unfortunately this can cause acute pancreatitis and later result in chronic diabetes.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, veterinarians and the AVMA caution pet owners against feeding leftovers to pets.

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Enjoy Thanksgiving, but keep the turkey and fixins for the people.