Animal cruelty is aggressively prosecuted. If you’re facing criminal charges, call Los Angeles animal cruelty attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez today for a free consultation.
Over the past few decades, California has been at the forefront of a nationwide trend to criminalize animal abuse. Today, the state has some of the most intricate and sweeping animal cruelty laws in the United States. If you are charged with an act of animal cruelty in California you can face serious criminal consequences.
Animal Cruelty Laws
California has more than 50 animal cruelty laws on the books. These laws criminalize a variety of behaviors. The primary animal cruelty law in California is Penal Code 597 PC. It covers the widest range of potentially abusive behavior and can be charged in a variety of situations.
California Penal Code 597 PC makes it a crime to maliciously and intentionally maim, mutilate, torture, wound, or kill an animal. More specifically, it is a crime of animal cruelty to:
- Overdrive, overload, overwork an animal;
- Torture or torment an animal;
- Deprive an animal of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter;
- Cruelly beat, mutilate, or kill an animal;
- Subject an animal to needless suffering;
- Inflict unnecessary cruelty upon an animal;
- Fail to provide an animal with proper food, drink, or shelter/protection from the weather;
- Ride, drive, or use an animal when unfit for labor; or
- Abuse an animal in any manner.
It is also a crime to cause an animal to suffer or endure any of the conduct outlined above. California Penal Code 597 PC also makes it an act of animal cruelty to maliciously or intentionally maim, mutilate, or torture any reptile, bird, amphibian, mammal, or fish that is currently classified as an endangered or protected species. The criminal consequences for abusing an endangered or protected species are more serious.
If you are charged with animal cruelty under California Penal Code 597 PC, the prosecution will be required to prove you:
- Maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, abused, or killed a living animal; and
- Acted with malicious intent.
Defining “Animal” for the Purposes of the Law
Do all animals “count” for the purposes of California’s animal cruelty laws? The prosecution must prove that you abused a living animal – but what qualifies as an animal? California has some of the most expansive animal cruelty laws. An animal is considered to include “every dumb creature.” This means that any animal can be the victim of animal cruelty. So, whether the animal is a chicken or a dog, the criminal consequences will be the same.
Note, there are aggravated penalties for abusing endangered and protected species. Additionally, animals who are used for laboratory, educational, or farming purposes are generally not afforded the same protections. Most states exempt farmed animals from the protections of state animal cruelty laws.
For the most part, farmed animals in California do not have legal protection. However, the state has passed some laws that regulate the conditions in which certain animals may be raised. For example, there are minimum space requirements for containing chickens, pigs, and other farm animals.
Penalties for Animal Cruelty
Animal cruelty charged under California Penal Code 597 PC can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The specific criminal charge will depend on the severity of the offense and your own criminal history. A misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty is punishable by no more than one year in County jail and/or a fine of no more than $1,000. A felony charge of animal cruelty is punishable by between 16 months and three years in California state prison and/or a fine of no more than $20,000.
In addition to jail time and/or fines, a conviction for animal cruelty in California can result in:
- Seizure of the animal or other animals in your control by law enforcement or animal control;
- Requirement to complete court-ordered counseling;
- Aggravated sentencing if the act of animal cruelty involved a dangerous weapon;
- Payment of costs associated with the seizure, impoundment, or treatment of your animal;
- Civil liability for the harm to or death of another’s animal.
Other Animal Cruelty Laws in California
California Penal Code 597 PC is the state’s primary animal cruelty law. Most animal cruelty crimes will be charged under 597 PC. However, the state has a variety of other animal cruelty laws that target very specific behaviors. Some of the more frequently charged animal cruelty offenses in California are listed below.
Dogfighting: California Penal Code 597.5 PC makes it a crime to:
- own, possess, keep, or train any dog with the intent to engage that dog in fighting;
- cause any dog to fight with another dog for your amusement or gain;
- permit dogfighting to be conducted on any property you own or control.
Dogfighting is a felony offense and is punishable by 16 months to three years in prison and/or fines of up to $50,000. It is also a crime to be present at dogfighting events. Watching dogfighting is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Cockfighting: California Penal Code 597b PC makes it a crime to:
- cause a cock to fight another cock or other type of animal for amusement or gain;
- worry or injure a cock;
- cause a cock to worry or injury another cock or animal; or
- permit cockfighting on property you own or control.
Cockfighting is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $10,000.
Leaving an Animal Unattended in a Vehicle: California Penal Code 597.7 PC makes it a crime to leave or confine an animal unattended in a motor vehicle when conditions would endanger the health or well-being of that animal.
Excessive heat or cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other conditions that “could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death” are examples of behavior that could result in criminal charges under this section. If the animal does not suffer great bodily harm, a first-time offense is punishable by a fine of no more than $100. If the animal does suffer great bodily harm, a first-time offense is punishable by no more than six months in jail and/or a fine of no more than $500.
If the animal does not suffer great bodily harm, a first-time offense is punishable by a fine of no more than $100. If the animal does suffer great bodily harm, a first-time offense is punishable by no more than six months in jail and/or a fine of no more than $500.
Sexual Abuse of Animals: California Penal Code 286.5 PC makes it a crime to sexually assault an animal for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. Sexual abuse of animals is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by no more than one year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.
Abandonment: California Penal Code 597.1 PC makes it a crime to abandon or neglect an animal, or to cause an animal to be abandoned or neglected. Failure to provide proper care and attention can result in charges for abandonment. Abandonment is a misdemeanor offense.
Poisoning an Animal: California Penal Code 596 PC makes it a crime to willfully administer poison to an animal or cause an animal to be exposed to a poison without the consent of the owner. Poisoning an animal is a misdemeanor offense.
Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges in California
Just because you have been accused of an act of animal cruelty does not necessarily mean that you will be charged or convicted of a crime. The prosecutor in charge of your case will be required to prove each element of the crime with which you have been charged.
There may be certain arguments that your animal cruelty attorney can assert in your defense to limit the prosecution’s ability to prove their case. Defenses to charges of animal cruelty in California may include:
- Lack of required intent;
- False accusation;
- Violation of Constitutional rights.
Contact a Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Attorney Today
Have you been charged with an act of animal cruelty? If you have, then contact Los Angeles animal cruelty attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez.
California will aggressively prosecute those who are accused of abusing animals. Even accidents – such as leaving your dog in the car while you run into the store – can result in criminal charges. The best way to limit the negative consequences of an arrest or criminal charges is to hire an attorney who is familiar with the state’s complex animal cruelty laws to defend you. Contact The Rodriguez Law Group today to schedule your free consultation.