Felony Conviction for Cruelty to Goldfish

In the course of attacking his companion, defendant destroyed a fish tank and stepped on a goldfish killing it. Defendant claimed that the goldfish was not a companion animal and was therefore not subject to the criminal statute forbidding cruelty to animals. The relevant statute defines a companion animal as a dog or cat and any other domesticated animal. Defendant claimed that a goldfish cannot be a companion because it is not domesticated nor able to reciprocate feelings to its owner. Defendant claimed further that a domesticated animal has no desire or inclination to escape. A goldfish, however, would swim away if dropped into a body of water. The court, in rejecting defendant’s claims, held that the statute did not require feelings of mutual affection and that domestication merely meant an animal living with humans and not a wild animal. Loyalty was not required; many pets would escape if given the opportunity.

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