Animal Cruelty or Animal Abuse in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
Animal Cruelty (also known as "Animal Abuse" or "Animal
Neglect") in California, especially Los Angeles, is a serious offense.
California has some of the most comprehensive Animal Cruelty laws in the
United States. If you have been charged with Animal Cruelty, Animal Abuse
or Animal Neglect, you should take the accusation seriously and speak
to a qualified criminal defense attorney.
A conviction for cruelty to animals can result not only in a felony criminal
record but also county jail or even state prison time. Do not risk your
freedom or reputation. Contact the Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys
at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to find out about your legal options.
California Law and Animal Cruelty Charges
In California, Animal Cruelty is prohibited by a variety of laws designed
to protect domesticated pets, stray dogs, cats, and other animals, wild
animals and farm animals. There are several dozen laws in California that
prohibit animal abuse and mistreatment of animals. The primary Animal
Cruelty law is found in California Penal Code Section 597. This law strictly
- Maliciously and intentionally maiming, wounding, torturing, or mutilating
a living animal or maliciously and intentionally killing an animal;
- Without malice or intentional conduct, overworking, overdriving, torturing,
tormenting, depriving of the necessary food and drink or shelter, or cruelly
beating, mutilating or killing any animal, or subjecting any animal to
needless suffering, or driving, riding or otherwise using an animal that
is unfit for labor; and
- Maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, or torturing any mammal,
bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish of an endangered or threatened species
or fully protected birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians or fish.
In addition to the general activities described in California Penal Code
597, a number of additional specific acts of animal cruelty are described
in other parts of the California Penal Code, for example:
- Poisoning Animals (Penal Code 596)
Dog Fighting (Penal Code 597.5)
- Declawing an exotic or native wild cat (Penal Code 597.6)
- Leaving an animal in an unattended car where the conditions could endanger
the animal's health or well-being (Penal Code 597.7)
- Transporting animals in an inhumane manner (Penal Code 597a)
- Staging animal fighting for amusement (Penal Code 597 b)
- Intentionally tripping horses (Penal Code 597g)
- Attaching a live animal to a devise for the purpose of getting a dog to
chase it (Penal Code 597h)
- Failing to provide reasonable care to animals in pet stores (Penal Code 597l)
Cockfighting (Penal Code 597b, 597c, 597i, 597j)
- Using a bristle bur, tack bur, or other like device on a horse or other
animal (Penal Code 597k)
- Bullfighting (Penal Code 597m)
- Shortening the tail of a horse or cattle ("docking") (Penal Code 597n)
- Failing to appropriately transport animals to slaughter (Penal Code 597o)
- Willfully abandoning an animal (Penal Code 597s)
- Confining an animal without space to exercise, or using a leash rope or
chain which may entangle the animal, to restrict the animal without access
to adequate shelter, food and water (Penal Code 597t)
- Transporting disabled horses, ponies, burros or donkeys for slaughter out
of state (Penal Code 597x)
- Selling dogs younger than eight (8) weeks old (Penal Code 597z).
Penalties and Punishment
Prosecutors have the discretion to file a crime under general animal cruelty
abuse and neglect provision of Penal Code 597z, or under the specific
prohibitions of Penal Code 596, 597a-z, and 597.1-600.5. Depending on
the seriousness of the case, the defendant's criminal history and
the law under which the crime is prosecuted, animal cruelty can be charged
as an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony. Conviction for misdemeanor
animal cruelty can result in one (1) year of county jail and up to $20,000 in fines.
Conviction for a felony animal cruelty can result in sixteen (16) months
to three (3) years in state prison and up to $20,000 in fines. If a deadly
or dangerous weapon is used to commit the crime, an additional year can
be added to the prison sentence. If a defendant has two (2) prior violent
felony ("strike") convictions, a conviction for animal cruelty
can be the third strike, which results in a sentence of 25 years to life.
In addition, to the jail and fines, the animal may be permanently confiscated
and the defendant could be required to pay the cost related to the housing
of the animal from the time it was seized until the time of conviction.
Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Enforcement
Los Angeles prosecutors aggressively prosecute individuals who are suspected
of cruelty to animals. The Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task force (ACTF)
has made dozens of arrests involving animal abuse since its formation
in 2005. Additionally, a designated Los Angeles 24-hour tip line for reporting
dog fighting offers rewards of up to $5,000. With these resources, incentives
and recent high profile cases like the Michael Vick dog fighting case,
animal cruelty suspects can expect to face experienced prosecutors who
are motivated to obtain felony convictions. It is important to have an
experienced team of defense attorneys to level the playing field.
Defenses Against Animal Cruelty Charges in L.A.
The police can become too aggressive in their investigations, fail to obtain
key evidence or misunderstand a defendant's actions that resulted
in the animal abuse arrest. The facts and circumstances leading to the
arrest often reveal possible defenses to the charges. Defenses can result
in animal cruelty charges being dropped or reduced. Some of the defenses
to animal cruelty charges include:
Self-Defense and Defense of Others
California's self-defense laws allow you to defend yourself or another
person/animal if you or the other is in danger of imminent attack by an
animal. For example, you walk your dog in the park and a pit bull attacks
your dog. To get the dog to let go of your dog, you beat the pit bull
repeatedly with a large stick. If you used no more force than was reasonably
necessary to protect your dog, you have a defense to the charges against you.
If you killed an animal but did it without malicious intent, evil, design
or culpable negligence, the defense of accident may be possible. For example,
you are walking your girlfriend's dog. You hate this dog and even
wish it were dead. As you reach a busy intersection, the dog slips its
collar, runs across the street, is hit by a car and dies. Just because
you wanted the dog to die doesn't make this anything more than an accident.
False Accusations or Mistaken Identity
Revenge, anger and jealousy, including disputes between neighbors or domestic
disputes, are just some of the reasons that false accusations are made
against innocent people. Even if you are innocent and have nothing to
hide, the best way to stay out of jail while the situation is being resolved
is to immediately seek the assistance of an experienced
criminal defense attorney.
Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Defense Attorneys
At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, we provide aggressive representation
of our clients at every stage of the criminal proceedings from arraignment
through trial. We will conduct a thorough investigation, evaluate all
the evidence the prosecution will use against you, interview all relevant
witnesses and prepare your case for trial if necessary. If any evidence
was gathered illegally, we will strive to have it excluded from trial.
If the evidence is inconclusive, we will seek dismissal of the case.
When a case must be settled through a plea agreement, we will help you
find the best alternative to spending time in jail. Counseling, volunteer
work, and/or donations to various animal rescue groups are some of the
alternatives to incarceration. If you are being investigated for or charged
with animal cruelty or animal abuse or neglect, there is a lot at stake.
Call Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners for a no-cost confidential consultation
to discuss your legal scenario and see learn how we can help you.
Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from our firm at once if you have been charged with animal cruelty or abuse.