California "Animal Abuse & Cruelty" Laws
Penal Code 597 PC

California leads the nation by enacting the strictest laws punishing abuse of, cruelty towards or neglect of animals. These laws protect domesticated pets, stray animals, wild animals and farmed animals.

There's no question that animal cruelty does exist and it should be punished. But unfortunately, political pressure and activism often leads to hasty police investigations and overzealous prosecutions. This in turn leads to the wrongful prosecution of innocent people.

We're a statewide criminal defense law firm dedicated to protecting your rights.  As former police investigators and deputy district attorneys, we know the most effective ways to convince prosecutors, judges and juries that your unjust charges should be reduced or dismissed.

In this article, our California criminal defense attorneys1 help you understand how California's animal abuse laws are enforced, prosecuted and...most importantly...defended by addressing the following:

1. The Legal Definition of Animal Abuse / Animal Cruelty

1.1. Examples

1.2. Cockfighting

1.3. Dogfighting

1.4. Penal Code 597.7 PC leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle

1.5. The sexual abuse of animals

1.6. Additional animal cruelty laws

2. Legal Defenses

2.1. Self - defense / defense of others

2.2. Accident

2.3. The judge failed to give a unanimity instruction

2.4. False accusations / mistaken identity

3. Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Police Dog Abuse; Wobblers; Misdemeanors; Felonies; California Probation Laws; Legal Defenses; California's Self-Defense Laws; Accident as a Valid California Legal Defense; Appealing a California Conviction; and California Appeals Attorneys.

1. The Legal Definition of Animal Abuse / Animal Cruelty

The phrases "animal abuse" and "animal cruelty" cover a broad range of conduct...some that is obviously criminal in nature, some that is more obscure.  Simply put, animal cruelty takes place whenever an animal is the victim of abuse or neglect.

Intentional abuse occurs when an animal is physically abused.  Intentional neglect occurs when an animal is deprived of food, water, shelter, or veterinary services.

Although there are over 50 California laws that specifically deal with the mistreatment of animals, there is one primary law that regulates animal abuse / neglect -- Penal Code 597 PC.

Penal Code 597 PC prohibits

  • maliciously, intentionally, or cruelly
    • maiming (that is, disabling or disfiguring),
    • mutilating,
    • torturing (that is, inflicting unnecessary and/or unjustifiable pain or suffering), or
    • wounding a living animal,

  • maliciously, intentionally, or cruelly killing an animal,
  • depriving an animal of necessary food, drink, or shelter (or failing to protect an animal from severe weather conditions), and/or
  • riding, driving, overworking, or otherwise using the animal when it is unfit for labor.2

And because law enforcement agencies aren't typically present to witness these types of violations, they encourage the public to report these crimes.  Many animal rights' organizations, law enforcement agencies, and prosecution offices have on-line reporting pages and/or telephone hotlines that are available to the public.

Licensed veterinarians ("animal doctors") are also under obligation to report suspected incidents of animal abuse / neglect.3

1.1. Examples

Because of the wide range of behavior prohibited by Penal Code 597 PC California's animal abuse law, there are a multitude of ways to violate this law.  Some examples include (but are by no means limited to) situations where a person:

  • leaves his residence for weeks at a time, leaving animals caged and/or tied up without access to sufficient food or water, or in extremely hot conditions,4
  • accumulates 92 cats and keeps them in a 7 1/2-foot by 11-foot trailer, failing to provide adequate care which led to the cats being dehydrated, malnourished (that is, not provided with the "proper" amount of food/water), emaciated, covered in urine and feces, and suffering from a number of additional ailments,5
  • intentionally throws a dog into oncoming lanes of traffic where it was run over and killed,6 and
  • produces a "crush" video where he films a provocatively dressed woman "crushing" and killing twelve rats, mice and baby mice with the heel of her shoe.7

1.2. Cockfighting

"Cockfighting" is an organized fight between two roosters (otherwise known as "cocks") who are placed in a pit or ring to fight each other.  Most times, the roosters...who have been trained to injure or kill their opponents...are equipped with razor sharp metal implements called "gaffs" that allow them to stab directly into the opponent's flesh.

People gather to watch these fights and often place large bets on the outcome.  The losing cock...that is either killed or too weak to continue fighting...is typically placed in a trashcan (whether dead or alive) and the winner may suffer the same fate if it will not likely recover from its injuries.

Although cockfighting definitely qualifies as conduct prohibited under Penal Code 597 PC in that the people who place the animals in these fights subject them to "needless suffering" and "malicious and intentional maiming, wounding, and/or death",8 there are separate laws that specifically outlaw these activities.  This means that prosecutors can choose which charges they wish to file.

Penal Code sections 597b, 597c, 597i, and 597j prohibit people from

  • causing / allowing cockfighting for amusement or financial gain,9
  • being present at a cockfight,10
  • manufacturing, buying, selling, exchanging, or possessing any of the implements such as "gaffs" that are designed to be attached to the birds,11 and
  • possessing, training, or keeping a rooster so that it may be used in a cockfight.12

If you are convicted of any of these activities...with the exception of being a spectator...you face a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.13 Being a spectator without more involvement in the fight subjects you to a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.14

Second or subsequent convictions may subject you to a felony offense and/or greater fines.15

And law enforcement officers are legally allowed to enter the premises where a cockfight is either taking place or being set up to arrest all persons present, even if the police don't have a California warrant.16

1.3. Dogfighting

"Dogfighting" is similar to cockfighting except that dogs are used instead of roosters.  Dogfighting made recent headlines when NFL star Michael Vick was convicted of this offense back in December 2007.

Because Vick's operation crossed state lines, it was charged as a federal crime.17 As a result of his involvement with a dogfighting ring that maliciously caused the dogs to die in the ring or be hanged, electrocuted, drowned, or shot, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison.

You violate Penal Code 597.5 PC California's dogfighting law when you

  • own, possess, keep, or train any dog with the intent that it participate in dogfighting,
  • cause any dog to injure or kill another dog in a preplanned dogfight for amusement or financial gain, or
  • attend a dogfight as a spectator.

Being a spectator at a dog fight subjects you to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.  Any other violation of this offense is a felony, punishable by up 16 months or two, or three years in the California state prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.18

1.4. Penal Code 597.7 PC leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle

Penal Code 597.7 PC California's law against leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle prohibits leaving an animal (or animals) in an unattended car under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal based on conditions such as

  • hot or cold weather,
  • lack of adequate ventilation,
  • lack of food or water, or
  • other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

If a law enforcement officer (including an animal control officer or a humane officer) sees an animal in a car that appears to be suffering, this law allows him/her to do whatever is necessary to remove the animal from the car.

A first conviction under this section subjects you to a maximum $100 fine per animal as long as the animal doesn't suffer a great bodily injury.  If the animal does suffer from a great bodily injury, you face a maximum six-month county jail sentence and a maximum $500 fine.

A second or subsequent conviction subjects you to the same six-month maximum sentence and maximum $500 fine regardless of whether the animal suffers any injury.

Leaving your animal in an unattended car may also be viewed as an act of neglect, which means that the prosecutor could also opt to file additional charges under Penal Code 597 PC.19

1.5. The sexual abuse of animals

Penal Code 286.5 PC prohibits sexually assaulting an animal for the purpose of arousing or gratifying your sexual desire.20 Also known as "bestiality" or "zoophilia", the sexual "assault" of an animal doesn't actually have to be what we typically think of as an assault.  This means that the conduct doesn't have to be forced or violent, as any sexual contact with an animal is sufficient to trigger criminal charges.

Sexually abusing an animal is a misdemeanor, subjecting you to a maximum of six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.21

1.6. Additional animal cruelty laws

In addition to the acts criminalized under California Penal Code 597 PC and the additional statutes noted above, California law prohibits a variety of additional conduct that also qualifies as animal abuse.  And because the behavior listed below also arguably falls under PC 597, prosecutors generally have the discretion to choose which statutes they will actually file.

Some of these specific laws include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Penal Code 596 PC poisoning animals,
  • Penal Code 597a transporting an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner,
  • Penal Code 597l regulating the conditions of animals sold in a pet store,
  • Penal Code 597t PC confining animals in such a manner that they become entangled or injured and/or have no access to food or water, and
  • a new California law which will go into effect January 1, 2015 (based on Proposition 2 that was approved by voters in 2008) that will require anyone involved with selling eggs in this state to ensure that they come from hens which are able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down, and fully extend their wings without touching each other or the sides of their cages.
2. Legal Defenses

Animal abuse has always been a socially relevant issue.  This is partly because

  1. animals are often unable to defend themselves and therefore must be given special protection, and
  2. partly because there are many studies suggest that those who abuse animals are likely to commit other criminal acts as well.

Because of this rationale, these types of studies, and mounting social and political pressures to prosecute animal abusers, many state and local law enforcement agencies are dedicated to prosecuting animal cruelty cases.

For example, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has a special animal protection unit that exclusively prosecutes these types of cases.  Similarly, the Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals, Los Angeles has a special law enforcement division that issues citations, makes arrests, and files criminal charges.

But the fact is that these and other offices are often times too aggressive with their investigations which can result in flawed prosecutions.  And that's where we come in.

Fortunately, we know the most effective ways to present successful legal defenses to California's animal abuse charges.  And while the defenses in your case will vary depending on the exact circumstances of your alleged offense, the following are some of the more common examples.

2.1. Self-defense / defense of others

California's self-defense laws permit you to defend yourself or another person/animal if there is the danger of an imminent attack.22 These laws protect against danger posed by an animal in the same manner as they do against the danger posed by a person.23

This means that if you only injured or even killed another animal because that animal was attacking you, another person, or another animal, your actions may be excused, as long as you took no more action than was reasonably necessary to ward off the attack.24

2.2. Accident

Accident serves as a valid California legal defense to animal abuse when it appears that the animal's injury or death was not perpetrated by evil design, intention, or culpable negligence.25

Let's say that, for example, you see a neighbor walking his dog as you are backing out of your driveway.  Let's even assume that this is a neighbor who you don't get along with and whose dog you despise.  You wait until they pass and then proceed to back out.  As you do, the dog's leash escapes his owner's grasp and you run over the dog, breaking two of its legs.

Because you had no intention of hurting the dog...and were not negligent when you backed out of the driveway...you should not be held criminally liable for the charge. In fact, should be acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing.  And this is despite the fact that you may have otherwise had ill-feelings towards the neighbor or dog.

2.3. The judge failed to give a unanimity instruction

Violations of California's animal cruelty laws can be prosecuted based on

  1. continuing offenses (such as allegations that you failed to provide appropriate care for your animal(s) by depriving them of food, water, etc. over a period of time), or
  2. specific instances of conduct (such as allegations that, for example, you kicked your dog on one occasion and struck it on another).

When the case is based on specific instances of conduct, the judge must instruct the jury that they must unanimously agree on which instance (if any) qualifies as animal abuse.  The jury is not permitted to convict you of animal cruelty unless they unanimously agree on the specific instance that violates the applicable law.

If you are convicted of animal abuse based on specific conduct...and the judge did not instruct the jurors that they had to agree unanimously on the specific conduct that violated the law...you should speak to a California appeals attorney about the possibility of appealing your California conviction.26

2.4. False accusations / mistaken identity

Revenge, anger, jealousy, or a number of other emotions can provide the motive for a false accusation.

As Ventura criminal defense attorney Darrell York27 explains, "Innocent people are routinely falsely accused or arrested based on mistaken identity.  With respect to animal cruelty, a person may intentionally injure an animal just to frame it on another person.  As a former police investigator, I know that allegations aren't always based on facts.  My former experience gives me the tools to conduct an effective investigation and uncover the truth.  If you were falsely accused of animal abuse, we will set the record straight."

3. Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing

California's animal abuse laws are among the strictest in the nation.  Penalties include incarceration, fines and counseling.  How your case will be punished depends on the exact animal cruelty law you were convicted of violating.

Many of California's animal abuse laws are misdemeanors. But some are what are known as wobblers.  A "wobbler" is a charge that the prosecutor may choose to file as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the specific facts of your case, and
  2. your criminal history.

Penal Code 597 PC California's prominent animal cruelty law is a wobbler.  If convicted of this offense as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $20,000 fine.

If convicted of this offense as a felony, you face 16 months, or two, or three years in the California state prison and the same maximum fine.

Additional penalties include (but are not limited to):

  • having the animal(s) permanently removed from your care,
  • paying the costs associated with housing the animal(s) from the time of seizure to the time of your conviction,
  • completing court-ordered counseling as a term of your California probation sentence, and
  • an additional and consecutive one-year in the state prison if your animal cruelty offense involved the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon.28

And despite the fact that California leads the nation in animal rights, lobbyists continue to push for harsher legislation.  In February 2010, California Senator Dean Florez proposed a bill that would require convicted animal abusers to register their name, picture, address, and place of employment with law enforcement agencies that would then publish the information on the Internet.29

If this law passes, it will be the first animal abuse registry of its kind in the nation.  Currently, the only criminal public registries are reserved for Penal Code 290 PC sex offenders via Megan's Law and those convicted of Penal Code 451 PC California's arson law.30

Call us for help...

For questions about California's animal abuse laws, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada's animal abuse laws.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.31 For information about Nevada animal cruelty laws, go to our page on Nevada animal cruelty laws.

Online Resources:

SPCALA - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles:  Offers a wealth of information pertaining to the humane treatment of animals, as well as a place to report suspected acts of animal cruelty.

The Humane Society of the United States:  As the nation's largest animal protection organization, the Humane Society advocates for harsher animal cruelty laws, investigates animal cruelty, provides care for abused / neglected animals, and operates mobile veterinary clinics.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Penal Code 597 PC -- California's animal abuse law.  ("(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c) of this section or Section 599c, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, or, alternatively, by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment. (b) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) or (c), every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed; and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000). (c) Every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, or tortures any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish as described in subdivision (d), is guilty of an offense [i.e. California animal abuse] punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, or, alternatively, by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment. (d) Subdivision (c) applies to any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish which is a creature described as follows: (1) Endangered species or threatened species as described in Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code. (2) Fully protected birds described in Section 3511 of the Fish and Game Code. (3) Fully protected mammals described in Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 4700) of Part 3 of Division 4 of the Fish and Game Code. (4) Fully protected reptiles and amphibians described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 5050) of Division 5 of the Fish and Game Code. (5) Fully protected fish as described in Section 5515 of the Fish and Game Code. This subdivision does not supersede or affect any provisions of law relating to taking of the described species, including, but not limited to, Section 12008 of the Fish and Game Code. (e) For the purposes of subdivision (c), each act of malicious and intentional maiming, mutilating, or torturing a separate specimen of a creature described in subdivision (d) is a separate offense. If any person is charged with a violation of subdivision (c), the proceedings shall be subject to Section 12157 of the Fish and Game Code. (f)(1) Upon the conviction of a person charged with a violation of this section by causing or permitting an act of cruelty, as defined in Section 599b, all animals lawfully seized and impounded with respect to the violation by a peace officer, officer of a humane society, or officer of a pound or animal regulation department of a public agency shall be adjudged by the court to be forfeited and shall thereupon be awarded to the impounding officer for proper disposition. A person convicted of a violation of this section by causing or permitting an act of cruelty, as defined in Section 599b, shall be liable to the impounding officer for all costs of impoundment from the time of seizure to the time of proper disposition. (2) Mandatory seizure or impoundment shall not apply to animals in properly conducted scientific experiments or investigations performed under the authority of the faculty of a regularly incorporated medical college or university of this state. (g) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a defendant is granted probation for a conviction under this section, the court shall order the defendant to pay for, and successfully complete, counseling, as determined by the court, designed to evaluate and treat behavior or conduct disorders. If the court finds that the defendant is financially unable to pay for that counseling, the court may develop a sliding fee schedule based upon the defendant's ability to pay. An indigent defendant may negotiate a deferred payment schedule, but shall pay a nominal fee if the defendant has the ability to pay the nominal fee. County mental health departments or Medi-Cal shall be responsible for the costs of counseling required by this section only for those persons who meet the medical necessity criteria for mental health managed care pursuant to Section 1830.205 of Title 7 of the California Code of Regulations or the targeted population criteria specified in Section 5600.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The counseling specified in this subdivision shall be in addition to any other terms and conditions of probation, including any term of imprisonment and any fine. This provision specifies a mandatory additional term of probation and is not to be utilized as an alternative in lieu of imprisonment in the state prison or county jail when such a sentence is otherwise appropriate. If the court does not order custody as a condition of probation for a conviction under this section, the court shall specify on the court record the reason or reasons for not ordering custody. This subdivision shall not apply to cases involving police dogs or horses as described in Section 600.")

3California Business and Professions Code 4830.7 -- Report of animal abuse or cruelty; civil liability.  ("Whenever any licensee under this chapter has reasonable cause to believe an animal under its care has been a victim of animal abuse or cruelty, as prescribed in Section 597 of the Penal Code [California's animal abuse law], it shall be the duty of the licensee to promptly report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities of the county, city, or city and county in which it occurred. No licensee shall incur any civil liability as a result of making any report pursuant to this section or as a result of making any report of a violation of subdivisions (a), (b), and (c) of Section 597 of the Penal Code [California's animal abuse law].")

4People v. Sanchez (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 622

5People v. Youngblood (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 66.

6People v. Burnett (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 868

7People v. Thomason (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1064

8People v. Baniqued (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 13.

9California Penal Code 597b PC -- Cockfighting.  ("(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c), any person who, for amusement or gain, causes any bull, bear, or other animal, not including any dog, to fight with like kind of animal or creature, or causes any animal, including any dog, to fight with a different kind of animal or creature, or with any human being, or who, for amusement or gain, worries or injures any bull, bear, dog, or other animal, or causes any bull, bear, or other animal, not including any dog, to worry or injure each other, or any person who permits the same to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, or any person who aids or abets the fighting or worrying of an animal or creature, is guilty of a misdemeanor [i.e. California animal cruelty] punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (b) Any person who, for amusement or gain, causes any cock to fight with another cock or with a different kind of animal or creature or with any human being; or who, for amusement or gain, worries or injures any cock, or causes any cock to worry or injure another animal; and any person who permits the same to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, and any person who aids or abets the fighting or worrying of any cock is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (c) A second or subsequent conviction of this section is a misdemeanor or a felony punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year or the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years, by a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) , or by both that imprisonment and fine, except in unusual circumstances in which the interests of justice would be better served by the imposition of a lesser sentence.")

10California Penal Code 597c PC -- Animal fighting exhibitions; spectators; misdemeanor.  ("Any person who is knowingly present as a spectator at any place, building, or tenement for an exhibition of animal fighting, or who is knowingly present at that exhibition or is knowingly present where preparations are being made for the acts described in subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 597b [California animal abuse], is guilty of a misdemeanor.")

See also California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor; punishment not otherwise prescribed.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")

11California Penal Code 597i PC-- Cockfighting implements; prohibitions; penalties.  ("(a) It shall be unlawful for anyone to manufacture, buy, sell, barter, exchange, or have in his or her possession any of the implements commonly known as gaffs or slashers, or any other sharp implement designed to be attached in place of the natural spur of a gamecock or other fighting bird. (b) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine and upon conviction thereof shall, in addition to any judgment or sentence imposed by the court, forfeit possession or ownership of those implements.")

12California Penal Code 597j PC -- Persons who own, possess or keep or train any bird or other animal with intent that it be used or engaged in fighting exhibition; penalties. ("(a) Any person who owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any bird or other animal with the intent that it be used or engaged by himself or herself, by his or her vendee, or by any other person in an exhibition of fighting as described in Section 597b is guilty of a misdemeanor [i.e. California animal cruelty] punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (b) This section shall not apply to an exhibition of fighting of a dog with another dog. (c) A second or subsequent conviction of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine, except in unusual circumstances in which the interests of justice would be better served by the imposition of a lesser sentence.")

13See endnotes 9, 11 and 12, above.

14See endnote 10, above.

15See endnotes 9 and 12, above.

16California Penal Code 597d PC -- Fighting animals or birds; entries and arrests without warrant.  ("Any sheriff, police, or peace officer, or officer qualified as provided in Section 14502 of the Corporations Code, may enter any place, building, or tenement, where there is an exhibition of the fighting of birds or animals [which is a violation of California's animal abuse laws], or where preparations are being made for such an exhibition, and, without a [California] warrant, arrest all persons present.")

17When crimes cross state lines, they are typically prosecuted as federal crimes.  This means that, depending on the circumstances, engaging in animal abuse could subject you to both state and federal charges.

18California Penal Code 597.5 PC -- Fighting dogs; felony; punishment; spectators; exceptions.  ("(a) Any person who does any of the following is guilty of a felony and is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years, or by a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment: (1) Owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog, with the intent that the dog shall be engaged in an exhibition of fighting with another dog. (2) For amusement or gain, causes any dog to fight with another dog, or causes any dogs to injure each other. (3) Permits any act in violation of paragraph (1) or (2) to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, or aids or abets that act. (b) Any person who is knowingly present, as a spectator, at any place, building, or tenement where preparations are being made for an exhibition of the fighting of dogs, with the intent to be present at those preparations, or is knowingly present at that exhibition or at any other fighting or injuring as described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a), with the intent to be present at that exhibition, fighting, or injuring, is guilty of an offense [i.e. California animal abuse] punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (c) Nothing in this section shall prohibit any of the following: (1) The use of dogs in the management of livestock, as defined by Section 14205 of the Food and Agricultural Code, by the owner of the livestock or his or her employees or agents or other persons in lawful custody thereof. (2) The use of dogs in hunting as permitted by the Fish and Game Code, including, but not limited to, Sections 3286, 3509, 3510, 4002, and 4756, and by the rules and regulations of the Fish and Game Commission. (3) The training of dogs or the use of equipment in the training of dogs for any purpose not prohibited by law.")

19California Penal Code 597.7 PC -- Animal endangerment; confinement in unattended motor vehicle; violations and penalties.  ("(a) No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal. (b) Unless the animal suffers great bodily injury, a first conviction for violation of this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) per animal. If the animal suffers great bodily injury, a violation of this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both a fine and imprisonment. Any subsequent violation of this section, regardless of injury to the animal, is also punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both a fine and imprisonment. (c)(1) Nothing in this section shall prevent a peace officer, humane officer, or an animal control officer from removing an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal's safety appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal. (2) A peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer who removes an animal from a motor vehicle shall take it to an animal shelter or other place of safekeeping or, if the officer deems necessary, to a veterinary hospital for treatment. (3) A peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer is authorized to take all steps that are reasonably necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, breaking into the motor vehicle, after a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible. (4) A peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer who removes an animal from a motor vehicle shall, in a secure and conspicuous location on or within the motor vehicle, leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed. The animal may be claimed by the owner only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or impoundment of the animal. (5) This section does not affect in any way existing liabilities or immunities in current law, or create any new immunities or liabilities. (d) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and [Penal Code] Section 597 [California's animal abuse law] or any other provision of law, including city or county ordinances. (e) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the transportation of horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry or other agricultural animals in motor vehicles designed to transport such animals for agricultural purposes.")

20California Penal Code 286.5 PC -- Sexually assaulting animal; misdemeanor.  ("Any person who sexually assaults any animal protected by Section 597f for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person is guilty of a misdemeanor.")

21See same.

22Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 505 -- Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another. ("The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name or description of third party<) was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being (raped/maimed/robbed/ <insert other forcible and atrocious crime<)]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.")

See also Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 3470 -- Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide). ("The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name of third party<) was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.")

23People v. Lee, (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 1413, 1427. ("The focus is on the nature of the threat, rather than its source. It serves no public policy, and is neither logical nor fair, to deprive appellant of the defense of [California] self-defense because the threat of imminent harm came from a dog and not from a person. The use of force in defense of oneself should be legitimate, whether or not the source of the threat is a human being.")

24See endnote 22, above.

25California Penal Code 26 PC -- Persons capable of committing crime; exceptions. ("All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes...Five--Persons who committed the act or made the omission charged through misfortune or by accident, when it appears that there was no evil design, intention, or culpable negligence...")

26People v. Sanchez (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 622.

27Ventura criminal defense lawyer Darrell York uses his former experience as a Glendale Police Officer to represents clients accused of violating California's animal abuse laws at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.

28See Penal Code 597 PC California's animal abuse law, endnote 2, above.

See also People v. Smith (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 89, 94.  ("The language of [California Penal Code] section 12022, subdivision (b)(1) prohibits the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon "in the commission of a felony or attempted felony," and states that an additional and consecutive one year term shall be imposed for its violation. (Italics added.) The statute is subject to a single exception: where use of the deadly or dangerous weapon is an element of the underlying offense. Cruelty to an animal, in violation of section 597 [California's animal abuse law], subdivision (a), is a felony. (� 17.) And as we shall discuss, use of a deadly or dangerous weapon is not an element of that offense. Thus, the plain meaning of section 12022, subdivision (b)(1) supports imposition of a deadly weapon use enhancement based on a violation of section 597, subdivision (a).")

29The New York Times - Lawmakers Consider an Animal Abuse Registry

30Currently, California has two criminal registries that list the personal information of convicted offenders on-line.  The first is referred to as Megan's Law.  It states that most people who are required to register as a sex offender will have their information published on the Internet pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC California's sex offender registry. The second is the registry of those who have been convicted of aggravated arson under Penal Code 451 PC California's arson law.

31Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Mike Castillo for any questions relating to Nevada's animal abuse laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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