Under California Penal Code 597.7 PC, it is illegal to leave an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that would endanger the health or well-being of the animal. A violation of the law can lead to misdemeanor charges and jail time.
597.7 PC reads that “A person shall not leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal…”
Examples of unlawful acts
- leaving a pet dog in a parked car in 100-degree Fahrenheit weather.
- locking a cat in a truck with no food and water for an excessive amount of time.
- leaving an animal in a vehicle in extreme freezing conditions with no blankets.
Persons charged under this statute can raise a legal defense on their behalf. Some common defenses include:
- there were no conditions that threatened an animal,
- the police falsely accused the defendant, and
- there was an emergency.
If an animal suffers great bodily injury, then the offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties include:
- custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $500.
Our criminal defense attorneys will answer the following questions about California pets in cars laws:
- 1. Is it illegal to leave your pet in the car in California?
- 2. Are there legal defenses to Penal Code 597.7 PC?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Does a violation of the law mean negative immigration consequences?
- 5. Can an accused get a conviction expunged?
- 6. Does a violation affect a defendant’s gun rights?
- 7. Are there related crimes?
1. Is it illegal to leave your pet in the car in California?
Penal Code 597.7 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:
- leave an animal confined in an unattended motor vehicle, and
- do so when the act endangers the health or well-being of the animal.1
The law states that the following conditions may endanger an animal:
- excessive heat,
- excessive cold,
- lack of adequate ventilation,
- lack of food or water, and
- other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.2
Further, the law is not limited to dogs and cats. It applies to all animals.3
2. Are there legal defenses to Penal Code 597.7 PC?
Our criminal defense attorneys often draw upon three legal strategies to defend against charges under this statute. These include showing that:
- there were no harmful conditions that threatened an animal.
- law enforcement falsely accused the defendant.
- there was an emergency.
2.1 No harmful conditions
A person is only guilty under this statute if there were harmful conditions that threatened a confined animal (e.g., extreme heat). Therefore, an accused can always raise the defense that there were no hurtful conditions and the animal was safe and protected from harm.
2.2 Falsely accused
This is a similar defense to the one mentioned above. A defendant can assert that the police made a mistake in believing that the conditions involved in a case endangered an animal’s health. The accused would have to show that there were no dangerous conditions and he/she was unjustly charged.
A defendant can always try to show that there was an emergency that made him/her violate the law. Perhaps, for example, the defendant was hurt in a store and could not return to a vehicle (to attend to an animal) within a reasonable time.
3. What are the penalties?
If a person violates this statute and the animal does not suffer great bodily injury, then the offense is charged as an infraction. The maximum penalty is a $100 fine.4
If, though, a violation leads to an animal suffering great bodily injury, then the offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $500.5
If a misdemeanor, note that a judge may award the defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.
4. Does a violation of the law mean negative immigration consequences?
Some California crimes can lead to a non-citizen defendant being either:
A violation of Penal Code 597.7, however, does not lead to either result and no negative immigration consequences occur.
5. Can an accused get a conviction expunged?
A person convicted under these laws can get the conviction expunged. This is provided the defendant successfully completes:
- his/her jail term, or
- probation (whichever was imposed).
6. Does a violation affect a defendant’s gun rights?
However, the state’s gun laws say that a violation of this statute does not affect a person’s ability to:
- purchase, or
- possess a gun.
7. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to this statute. These are:
- California’s animal abuse and cruelty laws – PC 597,
- transporting an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner – PC 597a, and
- ill treatment of confined animals – PC 597t.
7.1 Animal abuse and cruelty laws – PC 597
Penal Code 597 PC is the main California law that defines the crime of animal abuse. The law makes it a crime for a person to maliciously:
- maim, or
- torture an animal.
Note that a person could be charged under both this statute and PC 597.7 since both laws criminalize harming an animal.
7.2 Transporting an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner – PC 597(a)
Penal Code 597a is the California law that makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to carry a domestic animal in a vehicle and do so:
- in a cruel manner, or
- while knowingly allowing it to be subjected to unnecessary cruelty of any kind.
While this statute involves the transporting of an animal, PC 597.7 pertains to leaving an animal in a stationary vehicle.
7.3 Ill treatment of confined animals – PC 597(t)
Penal Code 597t is the California statute on confined animals. It says that confined animals restricted by a leash or rope must have adequate:
- water, and
Unlike PC 597.7, this statute involves animals on a leash or rope rather than confined to a car.
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group.
- California Penal Code 597.7a PC.
- See same.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 597.7c.
- See same.