Animal Cruelty

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 prohibits:

  • 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.
  • Accident 
    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, our Los Angeles criminal attorneys 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.

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