Office of The State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit, Florida
Serving the Citizens of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties
Office of The State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit, Florida
Serving the Citizens of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties


Animal Cruelty Task Force

The Fifth Judicial Circuit Animal Cruelty Taskforce is a specialized team of professionals dedicated to investigating and preventing animal abuse and neglect. Formed by State Attorney Bill Gladson in 2022, the taskforce is comprised of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, veterinarians, and animal welfare experts. The taskforce works to ensure that animals are protected from harm and their welfare is upheld. They enforce laws that prohibit animal cruelty, prosecute those who break these laws, and educate the public on how to properly care for their pets. 

In conjunction with the taskforce, the Office of the State Attorney has an internal animal cruelty unit composed of Assistant State Attorneys with the interest, experience, and knowledge necessary to bring justice to animal victims.

“My office is committed to aggressively prosecuting animal cruelty cases, and I am grateful for the team which shares our commitment,” said State Attorney Gladson. “The reach of these crimes goes beyond harm to innocent animals; these criminals pose a risk to the entire community.”

What is Animal Cruelty? 

Animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water, or necessary medical care. Specifically, Florida Statute 828.12(1) defines animal cruelty as unlawfully and unnecessarily overloading, overdriving, tormenting, depriving of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilating or killing any animal. Florida Statute 828.12(2) defines aggravated animal cruelty as intentionally committing an act to an animal, which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

Why is it so important?

Animal cruelty is commonly linked with violence against people, domestic violence, and criminal enterprises. Nearly 70% of animal abusers have criminal records and animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Florida law affords some of the best protection to animals in the United States. The state currently ranks 7th in the nation in terms of the strength of its anti-cruelty legislation, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. It takes the cooperation of the community and all related agencies for these laws to be effectively enforced.

What are signs of Animal Cruelty?

Citizens should watch for signs of animal cruelty and report concerns to their local law enforcement agency. Red flags include: 

  • Open wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that is not being treated
  • Untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes
  • Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible
  • Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites
  • Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
  • Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness
  • Killing, seriously injuring, or poisoning an animal
  • Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary
  • Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter
  • Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
  • Animals are housed in kennels or cages that are too crowded with other animals or are too small to allow them to stand or turn around
  • Animal is seriously overworked
  • Animals being forced to fight with another animals

Florida Statutes: Visit Website

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Visit Website

National Link Coalition: Visit Website

Adopt and foster – animal services information:

Lake County Animal Shelter: Visit Website

Marion County Animal Services: Visit Website

Citrus County Animal Services: Visit Website

Sumter County Animal Services: Visit Website

Hernando County: Visit Website

Resources for pet owners:

Humane Society of United States: Visit Website

Animal League Wellness Center: Visit Website

Animal Rescue Coalition: Visit Website

Florida Pets: 9 Affordable Vet Care Resources: Visit Website