California Penal Code 597 b PC is the California law that defines the crime of cockfighting (or, the fighting or injuring of roosters). Under the statute, it is a misdemeanor offense for any person to cause a cockfight or deliberately injure a rooster.
597b states that "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 ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine."
- Jose holds a cockfighting party at his home where friends bet on which of two roosters will win in a fight;
- On her California farm, Stacie injures one of her roosters for “the fun of it.”
- Bored, Caleb tries to start a fight between a rooster and a cat while at home.
Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of cockfighting. These include showing that an accused party:
- Did not have control over the property where a cockfight occurred;
- Acted in self-defense; and,
- Injured a rooster on accident.
First-time offenders are charged with a misdemeanor. The penalties may include:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year; and/or,
- A fine of up to $10,000.
Multiple convictions under this section mean tougher penalties, including imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is cockfighting illegal in California?
- 2. Legal Defenses
- 3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
- 4. Related Offenses
1. When is cockfighting illegal in California?
Under California Penal Code 597 b PC, a prosecutor must prove two elements in order to successfully convict a defendant of cockfighting. These are that the defendant:
- For amusement or gain, caused a cock to fight with another cock, a different animal, or a human; OR,
- For amusement or gain, injured a rooster or let a rooster injure another animal; AND,
- Did so on land or property under his charge or control.1
The determination as to whether the property is under a person's charge or control will depend on the specific facts of a case.
Note that this section also makes it a criminal act for a person to aid or abet in the fighting or injuring of a rooster.2
And, it is also a crime if a person is just a spectator at a cockfight, as opposed to, the person that organizes and runs the fight.3
2. Legal Defenses
A person accused can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the best defense.
Three common defenses are:
- Property not under defendant's control;
- Self-defense; and,
2.1. Property not Under Defendant's Control
Recall that, for a person to be guilty under PC 597 b, he must have charge or control over
- The property on which there was a cockfight; or,
- The property on which a rooster was injured.
Therefore, a solid legal defense is for the accused to show that he did not have charge or control over the property in his case. He can do this by highlighting specific facts that suggest no ownership or little control.
California law allows people to use proportional force in defense of themselves and others if they reasonably believe they are about to sustain immediate bodily harm. This means self-defense can be a valid legal defense to the charges. For example, a defendant may show that while he did, in fact, injure a rooster (perhaps by kicking it), he did so only after the rooster attacked him.
Accident is a legal defense in which a defendant asserts he did not do a criminal act on purpose: “It was an accident.” The defense is successful when a defendant shows that:
- He had no criminal intent to do harm;
- He was not acting negligently; and,
- He was engaged in lawful conduct at the time of the accident.
A defendant, therefore, may challenge an accusation if he can show that while he injured a cock, he did so on accident.
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
Under PC 597 (b), a first-time conviction of cockfighting is charged as a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:
- A fine not exceeding $10,000; and/or,
- Imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.4
A second or subsequent conviction of cockfighting is a type of wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.5
If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:
- A fine of up to $25,000; and/or,
- Imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.6
If a second or subsequent conviction of cockfighting is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:
- A fine of up to $25,000; and/or,
- Imprisonment in the state prison for up to three years.7
4. Related Offenses
There are three crimes related to cockfighting. These are:
- Animal abuse and cruelty – PC 597;
- Dog fighting – PC 597.5; and,
- Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle – PC 597.7.
4.1. Animal Abuse and Cruelty – PC 597
Penal Code 597 PC makes it a crime for a person to commit animal abuse. A person commits animal abuse if he kills, physically harms, neglects or overworks an animal.8
PC 597 and other animal cruelty laws protect domesticated pets, stray animals, wild animals and farmed animals.
Penal Code 597 animal abuse can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If convicted of PC 597 animal cruelty as a misdemeanor, the potential consequences are up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $20,000 fine.9
The penalties for felony animal abuse are 16 months, two years, or three years in the California state prison and the same maximum fine.10
4.2. Dog Fighting – PC 597.5
Under California Penal Code 597.5, dog fighting can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.
The penalties for misdemeanor dogfighting are up to
- One year in county jail; and/or,
- A fine of up to $5,000.11
A felony dogfighting conviction can lead to up to:
- Three years in state prison; and/or,
- A fine of up to $50,000.12
4.3. Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle – PC 597.7
Under PC 597.7, a person commits a crime if he:
- Leaves an animal in an unattended vehicle; and,
- In doing so, he endangers the health or well-being of the animal.13
If a person violates PC 597.7, and the animal does not suffer great bodily injury, the person must pay a fine of up to $100.14
If a person violates PC 597.7, and the animal does suffer great bodily injury, the person can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 and a maximum six-month county jail sentence.15
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of cockfighting, per Penal Code 597 b, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM. (For similar charges in Colorado, please see our article on Animal Fighting, Colorado 18-9-204 C.R.S.; and, for similar charges in Nevada, please see our article on Nevada "Animal Cruelty" Laws.)
California Penal Code 597b PC.
California Penal Code 597b PC.
California Penal Code 597c PC.
California Penal Code 597 PC.
California Penal Code 597.7 PC.