Owners are usually required by law to provide adequate nutrition and water to animals under their care. They are also usually required to get adequate veterinary care for wounds or illnesses.
Owners are also usually required to provide adequate shelter, although the definition of this may vary. In general, the animal must have a safe place to get out of the wind, rain or sun. In cold climates, this shelter may have to be insulated.
As of 2015, an increasing number of cities and states are legislating the practice of chaining dogs outside. This practice is considered inhumane and dangerous by many animal experts, especially if done for long periods of time or with heavy chains.
Many animal neglect laws are based on the animal's body condition score. This is a numerical rating system which assesses the health of the animal in terms of weight. Lower numbers indicate malnutrition.
Animal welfare laws vary depending on the species of animal and how it is used. Commercial livestock operations are held to the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act, which are federal guidelines for animal care. This also applies to animals used in research.
There are also exceptions to most anti-cruelty laws if there is a justified reason. A common example would be withholding food or water from an animal prior to surgery.