In the mountains and deserts of San Bernardino County, weather conditions can get extreme. If you leave your pet outside in harsh or dangerous cold or heat, you could face California animal abuse charges.
“Animal abuse” or “animal cruelty,” while broadly defined under California law, is focused on deliberate or malicious acts of cruelty and neglect. But depriving your pet of shelter or failing to protect your pet from extreme weather conditions can result in animal abuse charges even without such cruel intent.
There are a number of California statutes that address animal cruelty and abuse in specific circumstances, such as laws involving transportation of animals, endangered or protected species, and animals in pet shops. There are also distinct laws that specifically prohibit inherently cruel activities like cockfighting and dogfighting.
However, California's main animal abuse statute is California Penal Code Section 597.
Animal Abuse Defined
Under Section 597, animal cruelty is defined as:
- maliciously, intentionally, or cruelly maiming, mutilating, torturing, 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),
- riding, driving, overworking, or otherwise using the animal when it is unfit for labor, and/or
- subjecting any animal to needless suffering, or inflicting unnecessary cruelty upon the animal.
Animal Cruelty Can Be a Misdemeanor or a Felony
A violation of Section 597 can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the nature and severity of the conduct involved. If you accidentally left your pet outside in inclement or dangerous weather conditions without any cruel or malicious intent, it will likely be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
A conviction for animal cruelty in San Bernardino County as defined in Section 597 carries heavy penalties, including:
- Up to one year in San Bernardino County Jail and a maximum $20,000 fine if convicted as a misdemeanor;
- 16 months, or two, or three years in a California state prison and the same maximum fine if convicted as a felony;
- Having the animal(s) permanently removed from your care;
- Paying the costs associated with housing the animal from the time of seizure to the time of your conviction;
- completing court-ordered counseling as a term of the probation sentence
If you are facing San Bernardino County animal abuse charges, you need to contact an experienced San Bernardino County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please give us a call to discuss your case.