Penal Code 398 PC - Owner’s Responsibility After a Dog Bite

Penal Code 398 PC is the California dog bite law that says an animal owner, whose dog bites another person, must provide that person with:

The owner must also provide this information within 48 hours of the dog bite. An owner's failure to do this is a crime in California.

Under this statute:

“(a) If a person owning or having custody or control of an animal knows, or has reason to know, that the animal bit another person, he or she shall, as soon as is practicable, but no later than 48 hours thereafter, provide the other person with his or her name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal who bit the other person… If the animal is required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, the person owning or having custody or control of the animal shall, within 48 hours of the bite, provide the other person with information regarding the status of the animal's vaccinations. Violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).

(b) For purposes of this section, it is necessary for the skin of the person to be broken or punctured by the animal for the contact to be classified as a bite.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Maurice watches his dog bite a man at the park, but he ignores it and never talks to the man.
  • Kelly knows that her dog bit a jogger, but she never provides him with her name and contact information.
  • Juan gets word that his dalmatian bit a woman, but he does not contact her until a week after the event.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 398. These include showing that:

  • the defendant is not the owner of the dog,
  • the dog did not “bite” anyone, and/or
  • the defendant was falsely accused.

Penalties

A violation of PC 398 is charged as an infraction (as opposed to a misdemeanor or a felony). The crime is punishable by a $100 fine. No time gets served in county jail or the state prison.

Shouse Law Group is a law firm that represents people accused of criminal offenses. We also represent dog bite victims to file civil lawsuits seeking compensatory damages.

Our California dog bite attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

penal code 398 dog bite

1. What is the owner's responsibility after a dog bite under Penal Code 398PC?

Penal Code 398 PC is the California statute that says a dog owner, whose dog bites another person, must provide that person with:

  • his contact information, and
  • any information regarding the dog's rabies vaccinations.1

The owner must also provide this information within 48 hours of the dog bite.2

Note that these rules apply to both:

  • dog owners, and
  • anyone that had control or custody of the dog.3

Also note that “contact information” includes the following:

  • the owner's name,
  • the owner's address and telephone number, and
  • the name and license tag number of the dog.4

According to PC 398b, it is not necessary for a dog's teeth to have punctured a person's skin for there to be a dog bite.5 It is sufficient for the teeth to have just touched the skin.

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 398 accusations?

If a dog owner is accused of not reporting a dog bite, then he can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to PC 398 accusations are:

  1. not the owner
  2. no dog bite, and/or
  3. falsely accused

2.1. Not the owner

Please recall that only the following persons have to provide information about a dog bite:

  • the dog's owner, and
  • a person having control or custody of the dog.

This means that it is always a legal defense for a defendant to show that, while a dog may have bitten someone, the accused did not own the dog – or did not have control or custody over it.

2.2. No dog bite

Note that PC 398 only applies to the situation where there is an actual dog bite. The statute is not raised, for example, if a dog merely growls or barks at a person. A valid defense, therefore, is for an accused to show that there was no underlying dog bite.

2.3. Falsely accused

Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations. People get falsely accused out of

  • jealousy,
  • revenge, and
  • anger.

Thus, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that a party falsely accused him of violating Penal Code 398 – or his dog of biting someone.

money under gavel
A violation of PC 398 is punishable by a $100 fine.

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of PC 398 is charged as an infraction. The crime is punishable by a $100 fine.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to a dog owner not reporting a dog bite. These are:

  1. dogfighting – PC 597.5,
  2. leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle – PC 597.7, and
  3. cockfighting – PC 597b

4.1. Dogfighting – PC 597.5

Penal Code 597.5 is the California statute on dogfighting.

The statute criminalizes any of the following:

  1. owning, possessing, keeping or training any dog, with the intent that it will engage in an exhibition of fighting with another dog,
  2. causing any dog to fight with another dog, or causing any dogs to injure each other, for amusement or gain,
  3. permitting either of the above two acts to be done on any premises under your control, or aiding and abetting either of those two acts; or
  4. knowingly and intentionally being present at a dog fight or a place where preparations are being made for a dog fight.6

If an accused is a spectator at a dog fight, then he will be charged with a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a fine of up to $5,000.7

All other violations of PC 597.5 are felonies under California law. A felony dogfighting conviction can lead to:

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $50,000.8

4.2. Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle – PC 597.7

Penal Code 597.7 is the California statute that prohibits leaving an animal (or animals) in an unattended car if, by doing so, it would endanger the health or well-being of the animal.

A violation of PC 597.7 results in a maximum fine of $100 – provided that the animal does not incur great bodily injury.9

If the animal does, then the defendant may be charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $500.10

4.3. Cockfighting – PC 597b

California Penal Code 597(b) PC is the California statute governing cockfighting (or, the fighting or injuring of roosters). Under the statute, it is a crime for any person to cause a cockfight or to injure a rooster.11

First-time offenders under PC 597(b) 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 $10,000.12

Were you accused of not taking responsibility after your dog bit a person in California? Call us for help…

california dog bite attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 398 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 398 PC. This code section states: “(a) If a person owning or having custody or control of an animal knows, or has reason to know, that the animal bit another person, he or she shall, as soon as is practicable, but no later than 48 hours thereafter, provide the other person with his or her name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal who bit the other person. If the person with custody or control of the animal at the time the bite occurs is a minor, he or she shall instead provide identification or contact information of an adult owner or responsible party. If the animal is required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, the person owning or having custody or control of the animal shall, within 48 hours of the bite, provide the other person with information regarding the status of the animal's vaccinations. Violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).

    (b) For purposes of this section, it is necessary for the skin of the person to be broken or punctured by the animal for the contact to be classified as a bite.”

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 398b PC.

  6. California Penal Code 597.5 PC.

  7. See same.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 597.7 PC.

  10. See same.

  11. California Penal Code 597b PC.

  12. See same.

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