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Home » Violent Crimes Lawyer » Animal Cruelty Lawyer

Animal Cruelty Attorney – Penal Code 597 PC

Do I Need To Hire An Animal Cruelty Attorney?

My Rights Law defends people in California charged with animal cruelty. Our criminal defense attorneys can give you the comfort of knowing that a trained legal professional is fighting on your behalf to get you the best possible result in light of your circumstances. The skilled violent crime lawyers at My Rights Law can go to work for you today. So, if you are charged with animal cruelty, get in touch by calling (888) 702-8882 or contacting us through our secure web form without delay.

Did you know that the United States passed animal protection laws before it passed child protection laws? Even if you weren’t aware of this tidbit of history, it should indicate that states take animal cruelty offenses seriously. You might think that animals are too insignificant for the state of California to invest time in prosecuting a case against you. The reality is, however, that animal cruelty is considered a violent crime and judges often sentence people convicted of negligently or intentionally harming an animal to lengthy prison sentences. Therefore, if you’ve been charged with animal cruelty in California and you want to know more about its laws, keep reading below.

Penal Code 597 PC – What Is Animal Cruelty?

If someone asks, “What does animal cruelty look like?” a slew of sympathetic commercials may come to mind. There’s no shortage of sad displays of puppies and cats that have protruding bones or that are shivering in the frigid cold. But the appearance of animal cruelty isn’t always so extreme nor so obvious. For example, authorities have charged people with animal cruelty after their pet died from being left alone in a vehicle. Was the harm negligent or intentional? To better inform you of the law, we’ll break down animal cruelty by distinguishing negligent cruelty from intentional cruelty.

Penal Code 597(b) PC Negligent Cruelty

Not every instance of animal abuse is violent and aggressive. Instead, some instances are forms of neglect.[1] In California, you may be prosecuted if you didn’t provide your pet with food, drink, suitable shelter from the weather, or if you worked your pet to death. Like parents accused of neglect when they fail to provide the basic necessities to their children, a prosecutor accuses pet owners of neglect if they fail to provide their pet with the bare necessities of life.

Let’s say you have a herding dog, and you own a farm. Although you purchased this dog, likely, for the sake of using it to help control your cattle or other farm mammals, you can’t overwork it to the point of exhaustion, dehydration, or death. Furthermore, if you purchased an animal, such as a cat, and attempted to use it for labor that it’s not physically qualified to do, and it suffers as a result, the state may charge you with a crime. Moreover, the shelter you provide to the animal must be appropriate. A small, cramped metal cage is likely not suitable for a large Bull Mastiff. Likewise, leaving your pet in feces and urine is likely a form of negligent animal cruelty, as well.

In short, whenever you acquire a pet, you must study that pet’s needs and nature. You should know:

  • Which foods it eats
  • Which home environment is best for it, such as apartment living or farm living
  • How often it requires feeding
  • When and how often to trim its nails and fur
  • How to take care of it if it becomes pregnant
  • Whether it’s best suited for colder or warmer climates, and so on.

You can reduce the likelihood of facing a negligent animal cruelty charge if you discuss the conditions of your pet with a veterinarian. You can also reduce the possibility of facing this charge if you buy your pet from a reputable person or agency.

Penal Code 597(a) PC Intentional Cruelty

A judge or jury may find you guilty of intentional cruelty towards an animal if you intentionally wounded, injured, tortured, or killed it—regardless of its status. If you find a stray and torture it, you had it under your care when you allegedly committed acts of cruelty. In other words, whether the animal was a stray, someone else’s, or yours, is irrelevant to the issue of your responsibility toward the animal. So long as the animal comes under your care and, while under your care, you subjected it to needless and unnecessary abuse, the state may charge you.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Chaining an animal to a tree or post during harsh weather conditions
  • Burning it (as a form of punishment)
  • Poisoning it[2]
  • Orchestrating a dog fight[3]

What Are The Penalties For Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty is a wobbler offense.[4] This means that the state can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony. If it’s a misdemeanor, you’ll face up to six months of incarceration and a $1000 fine. If it’s a felony, you’ll face up to three years of incarceration and a $20,000 fine, or both.[5] Ironically, California categorizes animal cruelty as a non-violent offense, so you may not serve the entirety of your jail or prison sentence.

What Are Viable Defenses To Animal Cruelty?

Negligent Cruelty

You might raise the mistake of fact defense. For example, suppose that someone mistakenly led you to believe that your pet dog was an outdoors dog that could thrive in harsh weather conditions. Thus, you left this dog outside, only to find it dead from the weather condition later. If this happens, you could argue that you never had any intention of causing your pet harm. Also, depending on the circumstances, you may argue that nothing had occurred to put you on alert or to reasonably suggest that your pet was suffering any harm.

Fourth Amendment Protections

If this alleged act of animal cruelty occurred on your privately owned property, depending on how the officers handled the matter, you might raise a Fourth Amendment violation issue. If you can prove that the officers violated your constitutional protections, and an exception didn’t apply, the judge must throw out any evidence found during this unlawful search and seizure.

But let’s suppose that you admit you harmed an animal. Maybe you only harmed it to protect someone else. Perhaps the animal was vicious, and you were forced to maim it so that it didn’t hurt a child or loved one. In this case, you can raise self-defense of yourself or others to get this charge dismissed.

Other defenses are available, but they all depend on the nature of your case.

How Can My Rights Law Help You?

Experienced animal cruelty lawyers do more than structure defenses on your behalf. Instead, experienced California attorneys will treat you as a person and give you respect as their client. That’s us. We fight for you. We work aggressively and passionately for you. We commit to studying the details of your case. We at My Rights Law have decades of knowledge, which we use to get the most favorable outcome for you.

If the state charges you with cruelty to animals, don’t wait. You can be assured that a vigilant prosecutor is building a solid argument against you. You’ll want a California criminal defense attorney who’s just as vigilant. Call us today for a free consultation and let us help you. You may call us at (888) 702-8882 or contact us through our secure form.

We also handle elder abuse cases.

[1] Refer to CA Penal Code 597.
[2] Refer to CA Penal Code 596.
[3] Refer to CA Penal Code 597.5.
[4] Refer to CA Penal Code 597.
[5] Refer to CA Penal Code 597(d).

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