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Is It Illegal To Not Take Dog To Vet?

Every state in the United States prohibits several different types of mistreatment against animals, such as cats and dogs. These include failure to provide proper food and shelter as well as deliberate maiming and torturing. Indeed, it’s considered a crime to neglect, abandon, and mistreat an animal.

But is it illegal to not take a dog to a vet? No, it isn’t illegal to not take a dog to a vet, but it must also be emphasized that it depends on the situation. Keep in mind that there are specific laws in your state and city that covers pet ownership and other animal-related matters.

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Read on and know whether it is illegal to withhold veterinary attention to animals or not. You may be surprised about your state’s laws.

When It Can Be Considered Illegal

Nearly all states consider neglect of an animal as illegal, although the exact definition differs slightly. In many states, neglect means the failure to provide necessary food, water, and shelter, the three basic needs for survival.

There is no provision for veterinary care, although local ordinances may also require it.

But some states require owners to provide their animals with necessary veterinary care. It is in addition to sanitary conditions, physical exercise, and protection from the weather. Even then, the state and local laws have provisions that will define what’s necessary and what’s unnecessary.

In the State of Washington, for example, pet owners can be charged for a misdemeanor if they didn’t provide their animals with veterinary care.

But the charge will only hold up in court if the animal suffered unjustified or unnecessary pain due to withholding medical attention. Also, the owner in question should have acted with criminal negligence, or recklessly or intentionally.

There’s the matter of an owner’s defense about being in financial distress to avoid being charged for a misdemeanor, too. If a Washingtonian can provide valid proof of his adverse financial situation, he can defend himself against charges of animal neglect.

But it can be a completely different matter in other states. In Texas, for example, a woman was convicted for animal cruelty when she didn’t give her dog with a severe dermatological condition the necessary veterinary care.

It was despite her lack of financial capacity, including the absence of transportation to the vet clinic. She was living on a $400/month Social Security pension and didn’t own a car, not to mention that she was giving the dog homemade sulfur dips.

When It Isn’t Considered Illegal

Again, it will likely be different in another state! In the State of New York, for example, a person who deprives an animal of its basic needs neglects it, or refuses to provide it with its basic needs is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

It was the basis for filing a case against a man who refused to take his dog to a vet to treat a huge mammary tumor.

He told the court that he wasn’t providing veterinary care for his dog because of his limited finances. He also asserted that he doesn’t view cancer treatments favorably. He was then deemed not guilty by the court because the state’s anti-cruelty laws were too vague.


In an ideal world, responsible pet owners will provide prompt and proper veterinary care for their animals. But we live in a flawed world, and there will be instances when it isn’t possible.

You have to decide whether veterinary care is a must or not while also taking into account the animal-related laws in your state and city. You should also keep reasonably detailed records of your pet’s health and vet visits with the Pet Health Records for reference purposes.

Is It Illegal To Not Take Dog To Vet