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Dognapping and catnapping is a crime in Wisconsin.  Contact our expert defense lawyers at (414) 270-0202.

Dognapping and catnapping is a serious charge in Wisconsin.  For many pet owners, losing their cat or dog is among their worst fears.  Having a dog run away is certainly painful enough.  Intentionally taking the pet of another is recognized as a crime, likely because of the mental and emotional anguish the owners experience.

We certainly understand that individuals commit crimes for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps this is the first time you’ve done anything like this.  Maybe not.  Either way, our criminal defense attorneys recognize that all individuals deserve a fair, aggressive, even-handed defense.

At Meyer Van Severen, S.C. you’ll find that all our criminal defense attorneys are experts.  We dedicate 100% of our time to criminal defense.  While others will certainly judge you for simply being accused of this crime, we recognize you need an ally.  You need someone to fight for you.  And you’ll also find that at Meyer Van Severen.

Finally, call us.  We can’t start fighting until you reach out.  You can contact our law firm 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

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What is dognapping and catnapping?

Section 951.03 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits dognapping and catnapping.  The law indicates:

No person may take the dog or cat of another from one place to another without the owner’s consent or cause such a dog or cat to be confined or carried out of this state or held for any purpose without the owner’s consent. This section does not apply to law enforcement officers or humane officers engaged in the exercise of their official duties.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the crime focuses solely on dogs and cats.  If the defendant steals the victim’s lizard, the defendant certainly will not face dognapping or catnapping charges.  (Instead, prosecutors might pursue criminal charges like disorderly conduct or theft.)

Secondly, law enforcement officers or humane officers working in their official capacities are exempt from the law.  The reason for that is certainly simple: an animal control officer’s job is frequently to take custody of stray animals.  If this law was formatted different, that task is impossible.

Finally, the law prohibits two actions: 1) taking the animal out of Wisconsin and 2) holding the cat or dog without the owner’s consent.  Certainly the first example of this offense doesn’t happen frequently.  And secondly, it’s arguable that holding the animal without the owner’s consent encompasses removing it from Wisconsin.

What are the elements of this offense?

If you’re familiar with our website, you know what an element is.  An element is a part of a crime.  Each crime has elements.  And finally, the government must prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1983 describes dognapping and catnapping:

  • Firstly, the defendant took the dog or cat or another from one place to another; and
  • Secondly, the owner of the dog or cat did not consent to the taking; and
  • Finally, the defendant acted intentionally.

Intentional conduct certainly requires that the defendant acted with the mental purpose to take the dog or cat of another.  The defendant must know that the dog or cat belonged to another must know the owner did not consent to the taking.

What penalties do I face for dognapping and catnapping?

Chapter 951 of the Wisconsin Statutes contains a general set of penalties that encompasses all crimes involving animals.  Certainly this law is no exception.  Dognapping or catnapping is subject to the following penalties:

  • The base offense is a Class C forfeiture;
  • If the offense was committed intentionally or recklessly, the crime is a Class A misdemeanor;

Certainly there have been numerous pushes to penalize dognapping and catnapping as a felony.  These gestures continue to grow stronger as more and more individuals adopt cats and dogs.

Dognapping and domestic violence?

What happens in cases involving domestic abuse?  Can dognapping be a domestic violence charge?

Domestic abuse charges focus on four different types of conduct, defined by Section 968.075 of the Wisconsin Statutes:

  • Firstly, intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury, or illness; or
  • Secondly, intentional impairment of physical condition; or
  • Thirdly, sexual assault; or
  • Finally, a physical act which causes the victim to fear one of the first three scenarios is about to occur.

So, where would animal abuse fit into this definition?  Nowhere.  Stealing a cat or dog does not involve any kind of physical act and certainly does not involve sexual assault.  Because of the formatting of the law, dognapping and catnapping is not a domestic violence offense.

But that certainly doesn’t mean the crime can’t occur in a domestic violence-type relationship.  If you spend a small amount of time in domestic violence court, frequently you’ll hear circuit court judges talking about a concept called “power and control.”  Taking someone’s pet may be an attempt to exert this power and control over another person.  Domestic violece-like behavior could result in prosecutors pursing your case more aggressively.

Finally, contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. to start fighting your animal abuse case.

We understand how humbling it is when you’re accused of committing a crime.  You might feel embarrassed, ashamed, or angry about the charges.  But sitting around focused on how the system has did you wrong doesn’t change your position.  Beginning to fight the charges certainly does.

At Meyer Van Severen, S.C. our entire practice focuses on criminal defense.  We can help defend your dognapping or catnapping case.

Finally, call us.  You can reach our criminal defense law firm 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.  From there we’ll schedule a free initial consultation and begin planning your defense.