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Animal Cruelty Laws (PC 597) in California - IE-CRiminal Defense

California Penal Code 597(a): Animal Abuse

Legal Definition: Any person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills an animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is guilty of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect.For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 597, the prosecution must prove the following:1. You maimed/mutilated/tortured/wounded/killed a living animal;AND2. You acted maliciously.

What does this mean?

Torture means every act, failure to act, or neglect that causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering. Maiming means disabling or disfiguring an animal permanently or depriving it of a limb, organ, or other parts of the body. Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to disturb, annoy, or injure an animal.There are several common ways you can be found guilty of this charge using the above elements:

  • You place animals in small kennels for long periods of time or with other animals in the same kennel without sufficient room to move for long periods of time (PC 597(a) & PC 597f)
  • You deprive the animals of food, water, or proper shelter for a very long period of time (PC 597f).
  • You work with an animal, such as a horse or a dog, for a long period of time without proper rest for that animal (PC 597(b))
  • You inflict an unreasonable amount of physical pain on an animal (PC 597(a) & PC 597(b))
  • You have your animals engage in fighting, such as dog or cockfighting (Think Michael Vick) (PC 597j(a) & PC 597(b))
  • You kill or maim an animal on purpose and without any legal justification for doing so (PC 597(a))
  • You leave an animal unattended in your vehicle (PC 597.7(a) & PC 597f)


PC 597 can is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If you are convicted of this charge as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. If you are convicted of this charge as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 16 months, two or three years in State Prison. You would have to serve 50% of that sentence.You could also face stiff fines and fees, upwards of $10,000-$20,000 for any conviction under this charge. However, this is not a Strike offense under the Three Strike Laws.PC 597 charges may be considered crimes of moral turpitude where the charge is based on an act of intentional animal cruelty. Crimes of moral turpitude are considered morally wrong and can affect people with temporary citizenship as well as people who own Professional Licenses.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of your Rights
  4. Mistake of Fact

These cases are highly defensible because oftentimes you are arrested and charged simply due to the unfortunate circumstance of an animal passing away under your care. It’s important to remember that for most pet owners, losing a beloved animal who is considered a part of the family is already devastating. Then, you find yourself faced with police or Humane Society officials at your door, accusing you of being responsible for the animal’s death and serving you a summons to court. However, it’s crucial to note that the actions leading to the animal’s demise must go beyond the natural passing of the creature. Deliberately causing harm to the animal, to the point of maiming or killing, requires a depraved mindset. Consequently, many times the necessary elements of the crimes are not met since the prosecutor fails to prove your intentional attempt to harm the animal.

Call Today

Being confronted with charges arising from the loss of a beloved animal can be heart-wrenching. The dual blow of grieving for your pet while simultaneously grappling with potential legal consequences can be overwhelmingly distressing. It’s alarming to think that, amid such emotional turmoil, one might face jail time predicated solely on an unfortunate event.

However, it’s essential to remember that you don’t have to navigate this ordeal alone. I bring to the table not just extensive legal expertise but also a deep understanding of the emotional dynamics at play. Over the years, I’ve successfully represented numerous individuals who found themselves in this painful situation, and I’ve consistently achieved outcomes that acknowledge the profound personal grief at the heart of these cases.

The expertise of our PC 597 Ontario criminal defense attorney is unparalleled. We specialize in PC 597 among other legal domains and have a rich history of defending and safeguarding clients. Your path to justice and understanding starts with just one call. Avail of our complimentary initial consultation and have your pressing queries addressed anytime; we’re available round the clock.

Lean on the trusted name of Inland Empire Criminal Defense during these challenging times. Reach out to us today at 909-281-0565. Strategically situated in Ontario, CA, we’re here to offer you the robust legal and emotional support you deserve.

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