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Owning Attack or Fighting Dog Laws (PC 399_PC 399.5) in California - IE Criminal Defense

PC 399.5: Owning Attack or Fighting Dog

Legal Definition: Any person owning or having custody or control of a dog trained to fight, attack, or kill is guilty of a felony or a misdemeanor.

In order for an individual to be convicted of a violation of PC 399.5, it is crucial for the prosecution to establish the following points:

  • Ownership or custody/control of a dog that was specifically trained to fight, attack, or kill.
  • Knowledge or reasonable awareness of the dog’s vicious or dangerous tendencies.
  • Failure to exercise ordinary care in owning or controlling the dog.
  • The failure to exercise ordinary care resulted in the dog biting someone on two separate occasions or causing significant physical harm to another individual.

It is important to note that these elements play a significant role in determining the outcome of a PC 399.5 case, which underscores the need for experienced, expertise, authority, and trustworthy legal representation in such matters.

Related Crimes to Owning Attack Dogs:

  • PC 399(a) Allowing Vicious Animal At large Causing Death
  • PC 399(b) Allowing Vicious Animal At Large Causing Injury
  • PC 597.5(a) Training Attack Dog / Attending a Dog Fight
  • PC 597.5(b) Knowingly Attending a Dog Fight

What does this mean?

PC 399.5(a) does not apply to individuals who trespass on private property, those who deliberately instigate a dog attack, those who contribute to their own injuries, or to dogs performing military or law enforcement duties. This provision also excludes veterinarians and animal control officers who are conducting official duties.

Provocation encompasses scenarios where an individual, approaching an owner or custodian in a menacing or aggressive manner, elicits a protective response from a dog held on a leash by its owner or custodian.

The concept of ordinary care entails utilizing reasonable precautions to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to others. Failure to exercise ordinary care may involve engaging in actions that a reasonably cautious person would not engage in under the same circumstances or neglecting to take actions that a reasonably cautious person would undertake in such circumstances.

It is important to note that a mere bite does not meet the criteria for conviction under this section. Conviction requires two or more bites or a single bite resulting in significant physical injury to another person.


The crime of owning an attack dog under PC 399.5 is a wobbler offense, meaning it is to be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. Whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony is based on your criminal history, as well as the injury sustained by the victim. If you are to be found guilty under this section as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. If you are convicted of PC 399.5 as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 2, 3, or 4 years in a State Prison. You would be required to serve 50% of that sentence.In some PC 399.5(a) cases, you may be able to avoid jail entirely and instead serve an alternative sentence. Alternative sentences include work release, which is commonly known as Community Service, or electronic monitoring, also known as House Arrest.The crime of owning an attack dog is not considered a “strike” under California Three Strikes Law. It is also not considered a crime of moral turpitude. However, given the nature of this offense, you are generally subjected to heavy fines and fees in the form of restitution to the injured victim. This can include medical expenses, as well as fines of upwards of $10,000.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Mistake of Fact

In cases of violations of PC 399.5(a), it is important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all defense strategy. Each case is unique and requires careful evaluation. However, one commonly employed defense is the argument of insufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This defense hinges on the notion that the district attorney fails to prove that you were aware the evidence would be used in a trial or that the alleged evidence was unmistakable to you.

One possible avenue to explore is the element of provocation, which can shed light on your dog’s reaction. For instance, consider a scenario where a friend intentionally startles you, subsequently instigating your dog’s defensive reaction. This could serve as a compelling defense against the alleged attack on your friend.

Given our wealth of experience and expertise in this field, we understand the complexities surrounding PC 399.5(a) cases. You can trust our guidance and rely on our authoritative insights to navigate the legal intricacies and seek the most favorable outcome for your situation.

Call Today

Facing criminal charges doesn’t only put your freedom at risk but can also lead to heartbreaking outcomes like losing a cherished pet, facing exorbitant fines, or getting saddled with significant medical expenses. At Inland Empire Criminal Defense, our seasoned criminal defense attorney excels in providing vigorous representation against both misdemeanor and felony offenses, especially under PC 399.5. Kickstart your defense with our free initial consultation, and remember, we’re available 24/7 for all your questions. Defend your rights and future; dial Inland Empire Criminal Defense at 909-281-0565 today!

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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