4-1-1 Definitions -- Responsibility for agents and employees.
(a) In this chapter and in ss 4-4-9, 4-4-10, and 23-19-8:
(1) The words "animal" and "animals" shall be held to include every living creature except a human being;
(2) The words "licensed graduate veterinarian" or "veterinarian" shall mean a person duly licensed to engage in the practice of veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry in this state who is a graduate of an accredited veterinary medical, surgical and dental school or college of a standard recognized by the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association; and
(3) The words "owner", "person", and "whoever" shall be held to include corporations as well as individuals.
(b) The knowledge and acts of agents of and persons employed by corporations in regard to animals transported, owned or employed by or in the custody of that corporation shall be held to be the acts and knowledge of that corporation.
4-1-2 Overwork, mistreatment, or failure to feed animals -- "Shelter" defined.
(A) Whoever shall overdrive, overload, drive when overloaded, overwork, torture, torment, deprive of necessary sustenance, cruelly beat, mutilate or cruelly kill, or cause or procure 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, shall inflict cruelty upon that animal, or shall willfully fail to provide that animal with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather, shall, for every such offense, be imprisoned not exceeding eleven (11) months, or be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) nor exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), or be both imprisoned and fined as aforesaid.
(B) Every owner, possessor or person having charge of any animal may upon conviction of a violation of this section be ordered to forfeit all rights to ownership of the animal to the animal control officer of the city or town in which the offense occurred or to a humane society which owns and operates the shelter which provided the subject animal shelter subsequent to any confiscation of said animal pursuant to this section.
(C) "Shelters", as used in this chapter, shall mean a structure used to house any animal, and which will provide sufficient protection from inclement elements for the health and well-being of the animal.
4-1-3 Unnecessary cruelty.
Every owner, possessor or person having the charge or custody of any animal, who shall cruelly drive or work that animal when unfit for labor, or cruelly abandon that animal, or who shall carry that animal, or cause that animal to be carried, in or upon any vehicle or otherwise in a cruel or inhuman manner, or wilfully authorize or permit that animal to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty of any kind, or who shall place or cause to have placed on any animal any substance that may produce irritation or pain, or that shall be declared a hazardous substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or by the Rhode Island Department of Health, shall be punished for every such offense in the manner provided in s 4-1-2; provided however, that this section shall not be deemed to include any drug having curative and therapeutic effect for disease in animals and which is prepared and intended for veterinary use.
4-1-3.1 Prohibited practices in destruction of animals.
It shall be unlawful for any veterinarian or owner, as defined in s 4-1-1, or any agent of a veterinarian or owner, or any other person to destroy any animal by the use of a high altitude decompression chamber. When carbon monoxide is used as a euthanizing agent, only one animal shall be placed in the chamber. Violation of this section shall be punishable by a five hundred dollar ($500) fine.
4-1-4 Abandonment of infirm animals.
If any maimed, sick, infirm or disabled animals shall be abandoned to die, by any owner or person having charge of that animal, that person shall, for every such offense, be punished in the manner provided in s 4-1-2.
4-1-5 Malicious injury to or killing of animals.
Every person who shall cut out the tongue or otherwise dismember any animal, maliciously, or maliciously kill or wound any animal, or maliciously administer poison to or expose any poisonous substance with intent that the same shall be taken or swallowed by any animal, or who shall maliciously expose poisoned meat with intent that the same shall be taken or swallowed by any wild animal, shall be imprisoned not exceeding two (2) years or be fined not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), and shall moreover, in the case of any animal of another, be liable to the owner of such animal for triple damages, to be recovered by civil action. In addition any person convicted under the provisions of this section shall be required to serve ten (10) hours of community service. The community service penalty shall not be suspended or deferred and shall be mandatory.
This section shall not apply to licensed hunters during hunting season or a licensed business killing animals for human consumption.
4-1-6 Shearing of horses in winter.
No person shall cut, clip or shear the hair or coating of any horse between October 15th and March 1st unless the necessity therefor shall have been certified in writing and filed with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of cruelty to Animals by a licensed graduate veterinarian. Any person violating any provisions of this section shall, for every such offense, be imprisoned for not exceeding ten (10) days or be fined not exceeding fifty dollars ($50.00), or be both imprisoned and fined as aforesaid.
4-1-17 Unloading of animals in transit for rest, water and feeding.
No railroad company, in the transportation of animals, shall permit those animals to be confined in cars, after they shall have been so confined twenty- eight (28) consecutive hours, without unloading those animals for rest, water and feeding, at least five (5) consecutive hours, unless prevented from so unloading by storm or accidental causes. In estimating the confinement, the time during which the animals have been confined without rest on connecting roads from which they are received shall be included; it being the intent of this section to prohibit their continuous confinement longer than twenty-eight (28) hours, except upon contingencies hereinbefore stated. Animals so unloaded shall be properly fed, watered and sheltered, during their rest, by the owner or person having the custody thereof; or in case of his default in so doing, then by the railroad company transporting those animals, at the expense of the owner or person in custody thereof, and the company shall in that case have a lien upon those animals for food, care and custody furnished, and shall not be liable for any detention of those animals authorized by this chapter. Any company, owner or custodian of animals in transit, who shall fail to comply with the provisions of this section, shall for every such offense be fined not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500); provided, however, that whenever animals shall be carried in cars in which they can and do have proper food, water, space and opportunity for rest, the foregoing provisions for unloading them shall not apply.
4-1-18 Arrest of violators without warrant -- Care of animals.
Any person violating the provisions of this chapter may be arrested on view and be held without a warrant; provided, that an arrest or detention without warrant shall not continue longer than twenty-four (24) hours; and the person making an arrest, with or without a warrant, shall use reasonable diligence to give notice thereof to the owner of animals found in the charge or custody of the person arrested, and shall properly care and provide for those animals until the owner thereof shall take charge of them, provided the owner shall do so within thirty (30) days from the date of the notice. The person making an arrest shall have a lien on those animals for the expense of their care and provision.
4-1-19 Issuance of search warrants.
Whenever complaint is made on oath to any magistrate authorized to issue warrants in criminal cases, that the complainant believes and has reasonable cause to believe that the laws in relation to cruelty to animals have been or are being violated in any building or place, the magistrate, if satisfied that there is reasonable cause for that belief, shall issue a search warrant, authorizing any officer, competent to serve a warrant, to search the building or place; but no search shall be made after sunset, unless specially authorized by the magistrate upon satisfactory cause shown.
4-1-20 Duty of police officers -- Fines paid to Society for Prevention of Cruelty.
Every sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable and police officer shall prosecute all violations of the provisions of this chapter, which shall come to his knowledge; and all fines and forfeitures resulting from the complaint of any officer or agent of the Society for the Prevention of cruelty to Animals under this chapter, shall enure and be paid over to the society in aid of the benevolent objects for which it was incorporated.
4-1-21 Powers of agents of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The general agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and such number of special agents as may be appointed by that society shall have the same power and authority to arrest as any officer authorized to serve criminal process for the purpose of enforcing any of the laws of this state in relation to cruelty to animals, that power and authority to extend throughout the state, and they may serve any search warrant issued under the provisions of s 4-1-19 and may search any building or place named in that warrant. A general agent and any special agents may, for the purpose of carrying out their duties, possess and carry pistols as defined in s 11-47-2, and the provisions of s 11-47-5 shall not apply to them. Any person who shall interfere with or obstruct any of those agents in the discharge of their duty shall be guilty of obstructing an officer and punished as provided in s 11-32- 1.
4-1-22 Care of neglected animals by society -- Forfeiture of owner's rights -- Expenses.
An officer or agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may lawfully take charge of any animal found abandoned or neglected or which in the opinion of that officer or agent is aged, maimed, disabled, lame, sick, diseased, injured, unfit for the labor it is performing, or cruelly treated, and shall thereupon give notice to the owner, if known, or his agents, and may provide suitable care.
Every owner or agent shall, upon conviction of abandonment, neglect, or cruel treatment of any animal taken charge of by the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals under this section shall forfeit the rights to ownership or control of that animal to the society for disposition in any manner deemed suitable for that animal.
Whenever any officer or agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has lawfully taken charge of any animal under the provisions of this section, the expense of suitable care of that animal, upon conviction of the owner of that animal for a violation of any section of this chapter, shall be charged against the owner or agent of the owner having custody of that animal at the time the officer or agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took charge of the animal.
The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shall have the authority to commence a civil action for damages against the owner or his agent 30 days after a written demand for payment of the expense of the suitable care of that animal has been sent and no payment received.
4-1-23 Destruction of infirm animals by society.
If, upon examination by a licensed graduate veterinarian of any animal taken possession of under the provisions of s 4-1-22, the veterinarian shall certify in writing to the society that the animal is so aged, maimed, disabled, lame, sick, diseased or injured as to be unfit for any useful purpose any officer or agent of the society may lawfully and humanely destroy that animal or cause it to be humanely destroyed, and the society, its officers and agents, are hereby exonerated from all liability to the owner of that animal on account of its destruction.
4-1-24 Jurisdiction of offenses -- Appeals.
The district court shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the superior court, over all offenses under this chapter and to the full extent of the penalties therein specified; parties defendant, however, having the same right to appeal from the sentence of a district court as is now provided by law in other criminal cases.
4-1-25 Appropriations for prevention of cruelty -- Payments to society.
The general assembly shall annually appropriate such sum as it may deem necessary, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be expended under the direction of the director of environmental management, for the purpose of preventing Cruelty to Animals, and the director may pay that sum to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for that purpose, and the state controller is hereby authorized to draw his orders upon the general treasurer for the payment of any such sum, so appropriated, or so much thereof as may be required, upon receipt by him of proper vouchers approved by the director.
4-1-26 Abandonment of animals from motor vehicles.
If any person having possession and/or control of an animal abandons that animal on a street, road, highway or in a public place or on private property or from a motor vehicle, or in a dwelling or any other building or structure without providing for the care of that animal, he or she shall be punished in the manner provided in § 4-1-2 for each such offense. If this abandonment results in the death of the animal, the person shall be punished in the manner provided in § 4-1-5. Abandonment means the relinquishment of all right, title, claim, or possession of the animal with the intention of not reclaiming it or resuming its ownership or possession.
4-1-27 Auction of lost or abandoned animals and poultry.
The general agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, within his discretion, may sell at public auction any lost or abandoned animals and poultry. Before proceeding to sale, the general agent shall give notice to the owners of the lost or abandoned animals by advertising once a week for three (3) successive weeks next prior to the sale in some daily newspaper printed in English and published in this state.
The agent shall not be liable in any legal action brought against him based on the sale. The proceeds of the sales shall be turned over to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to be used to defray the cost of shelter and care of animals which are the subject of the sale and to cover any costs incident to the sale.
Any remaining proceeds from the sale shall be held for a period of two (2) years by the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the account of the rightful owner, who, upon making a claim and showing satisfactory evidence of ownership, shall be entitled to those proceeds. If unclaimed within that two (2) year period, the proceeds shall then become the property of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to be used for any and all purposes of the society.
4-1-30 Cruelty to police animals.
Whoever willfully tortures, torments, beats, kicks, strikes, mutilates, injures, disables or otherwise mistreats, any dog or horse owned by a police department of this state or any of its political subdivisions, or whoever, willfully by any action whatsoever, interferes with the lawful performance of a police dog or horse shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) and not more than five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment for not more than one (1) year or both.
4-1-31 Assignment of state veterinarian.
(a) Examination of fighting animals. A licensed veterinarian from the department of environmental management, shall be made available to agents of the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals at the request of the state police for the purpose of examining any animal which those agents believe to have been involved in animal fighting in violation of § 4- 1-2, 4-1-8, 4-1-9 or 4-1-11.
(b) Right of entry where cruelty suspected. The director of the department of environmental management or any veterinarian employed by the department of environmental management designated by the director for such purpose, having reason to suspect the existence of cruelty to animals within the meaning of this chapter upon any grounds or premises, is hereby authorized and empowered to enter upon those grounds or premises for enforcement of the provisions of this chapter. For such inspections, the department shall, unless a search without a warrant is otherwise allowed by law, seek a search warrant from an official of a court authorized to issue warrants.
4-1-33 Persons using animals for research -- Registration.
Any person, firm, partnership or corporation actively engaged in animal research, who actually utilizes live animals for research purposes, shall register with the department of health by filing with said department of health on forms provided by it, the full name, address and type of research performed by the particular person, firm, partnership or corporation involved in said research. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500).
Upon passage of this section the department of health shall forthwith publish a notice containing the provisions of this section.
4-4-9 Sale, use, or exposure of diseased animals -- Refusal to destroy.
A person who wilfully sells or offers to sell, uses, exposes, or causes or permits to be sold, offered for sale, used or exposed, any horse or other animal having the disease known as glanders or farcy, or other contagious or infectious disease dangerous to the life or health of human beings or animals, or which is diseased past recovery, or who refuses upon demand of the general agent or any special agent of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals humanely to destroy an animal affected with any of those diseases shall, for every such offense, be punished in the manner provided in s 4-1-2.
4-19-15 Access of inspectors to property.
Any authorized representative of the director, and the general agent of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, shall have the power to enter at reasonable times upon any private or public property for the purposes of inspection and investigating conditions relating to the provisions of this chapter.
No person shall participate in any rodeo activity who has been convicted of cruelty to animals while participating in any rodeo.
5-13-3 Board of inspection.
There is hereby created in the department of environment a state board of inspection of horse riding schools to consist of three (3) qualified electors of the state, one of whom shall be the general agent of the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, one of whom shall be a duly qualified and licensed veterinarian to be appointed by the director of the department, and one of whom shall be the owner or operator of a riding school in this state to be appointed by the director. The general agent of the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shall serve as a member of the board during the time he or she holds his or her position as general agent. The other members of the board shall serve at the pleasure of the director of the department. All the members of the board shall serve without compensation but shall be allowed their actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. The director of the department shall furnish to the board necessary clerical assistance and supplies.
5-13-4 Rules and regulations.
The state board of inspection of horse riding schools shall make all necessary rules and regulations for the proper performance of their duties and rules and regulations for the filing of applications for licenses and the qualifications of applicants.
5-13-5 Application for license -- Examination -- Fee.
All applications for licenses shall be filed with the state board of inspection of horse riding schools. The board shall conduct an examination, either oral or written, or partly oral and partly written, in order to determine the qualifications of the person to operate a riding school. Examinations shall place particular emphasis on the proper handling and care of horses and shall principally be a practical examination of the applicant's knowledge and skill in the proper handling and care of horses. The fee for all licenses shall be thirty-five dollars ($35.00) per year payable to the department of environmental management.
5-13-6 Access of board members to schools.
Any member of the state board of inspection of horse riding schools may enter upon and inspect any premises where a licensed riding school is being conducted or any premises upon which he or she has reason to believe a riding school is being conducted without a license.
5-13-7 Terms of license.
A license issued under this chapter shall be the property of the state and shall be loaned to the licensee and it shall be kept posted, in a conspicuous place, upon the premises where the riding school is conducted. The license shall expire by limitation on the thirty-first day of May following its issuance. A license may be renewed from year to year upon payment of the prescribed fee. No license issued under this chapter shall be assignable or transferable.
5-13-8 Suspension or revocation of license.
Any license issued under this chapter may be suspended or revoked by the state board of inspection of horse riding schools, after hearing, for any one or more of the following causes:
(1) Failure on the part of the holder of the license to provide suitable food, water, and shelter for the horses under his or her control;
(2) Maintenance by the holder of the license of an unsanitary or unfit stable;
(3) Failure on the part of the holder of the license to provide suitable saddles, bridles, harnesses, and other tack or equipment;
(4) The letting or use for riding or driving purposes of unfit horses;
(5) The permitting of horses to work more than eight (8) hours in any twenty- four (24) consecutive hours;
(6) The refusal by any holder of a license to allow a member of the board to enter and inspect the premises upon which a riding school is being operated or the obstruction by any holder of a license of any member of the state board of inspection of horse riding schools in the performance of his or her duties under this chapter;
(7) The commission by any license holder of any act prohibited by chapter 1 of title 4 or the suffering by the holder of a license of the commission of any such act by any other person with relation to any horse under the control of that holder; and
(8) Such other cause as, in the opinion of the board, taking into consideration the welfare of the horses under his or her control, shall show that the holder of a license is an unfit person to operate a riding school.
5-13-9 Penalty for violations.
Any person violating any provision of this chapter shall upon conviction be imprisoned not exceeding eleven (11) months or be fined not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or be both imprisoned and fined as aforesaid.
12-6-5 Recognizance not required on official complaints.
Whenever any agent of the children's friend and service shall make complaint against any person for any of the offenses mentioned in ss 11-9-1 -- 11-9-8, inclusive; or whenever any agent of the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shall make any complaint against any person for any of the offenses mentioned in chapter 1 of title 4; or whenever the director of public welfare of any town shall make complaint against any person for the violation of any of the provisions contained in chapter 8 of title 15; or whenever the director or an agent of the department of labor, specifically designated for the purpose, shall make a complaint against any person for any of the offenses mentioned in chapters 3, 12, 14 and chapters 29 -- 38, inclusive of title 28; or whenever the director or an agent of the department of human services, duly appointed for that purpose, or the director of any state institution appointed by the director of human services, or the superintendent of the Rhode Island training school for youth, or the warden of the adult correctional institutions shall make complaint against any person under any law governing the state department of social and rehabilitative services, that director, agent, or officer shall not be required to enter into recognizance for costs.
12-21-19 Payment of fines to general treasurer -- Accounting.
Whenever a fine is recovered under any statute of this state, the whole of which may be due the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, or the children's friend and service, or to any other society, or the one-half (1/2) of which may be due the state or any society, or to any person, as complainant, the whole of the fine shall be accounted for with the state controller and paid to the general treasurer. The fine due any society, or the one-half (1/2) fine due any society, or to any person, as complainant, shall be paid by the general treasurer upon order of the state controller and the state controller shall draw his or her order whenever he or she shall receive a proper return or certificate from the clerk of the court wherein the fine was imposed.
Amended in 1996, 1999.
Reviewed by AAHS in September 2001.
Return to Top of This Page