California Penal Code § 596 PC makes it a misdemeanor to poison another person’s animal intentionally. The offense is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But it is legal for people to keep poisoned bait on their own property to destroy predatory animals or livestock-killing dogs as long as they have posted proper warning signage.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
596. Every person who, without the consent of the owner, wilfully administers poison to any animal, the property of another, or exposes any poisonous substance, with the intent that the same shall be taken or swallowed by any such animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
However, the provisions of this section shall not apply in the case of a person who exposes poisonous substances upon premises or property owned or controlled by him for the purpose of controlling or destroying predatory animals or livestock-killing dogs and if, prior to or during the placing out of such poisonous substances, he shall have posted upon the property conspicuous signs located at intervals of distance not greater than one-third of a mile apart, and in any case not less than three such signs having words with letters at least one inch high reading “Warning–Poisoned bait placed out on these premises,” which signs shall be kept in place until the poisonous substances have been removed. Whenever such signs have been conspiciously located upon the property or premises owned or controlled by him as hereinabove provided, such person shall not be charged with any civil liability to another party in the event that any domestic animal belonging to such party becomes injured or killed by trespassing or partaking of the poisonous substance or substances so placed.
California Penal Code 596 PC prohibits deliberately poisoning another person’s animals, be they domestic pets or livestock. It does not matter if the person physically hand-feeds the animal poison or leaves it out in order for the animal to find and consume it. A misdemeanor, willfully poisoning another person’s animal without consent carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.1
PC 596 does not apply to property owners or managers if the following three conditions are true:
- The property owner/manager puts the poison on his/her own property;
- The purpose is to kill predatory animals or livestock-killing dogs; and
- The owner/manager posted conspicuous signs no more than a third of a mile apart that say in one-plus inch lettering: Warning–Poisoned bait placed out on these premises.2
Therefore if a trespasser goes on the property with a dog who consumes the poison and dies, the property owner/manager would not be criminally or civilly liable as long as there was sufficient warning signage.3
- California Penal Code 596 PC – Wilful poisoning of animals. See also People v. Keeley (Cal., 1889), 81 Cal. 210, 22 P. 593 and Jeanes v. Holtz (Cal. App., 1949), 94 Cal. App. 2d 826, 211 P.2d 925.