Every owner, driver or possessor of any animal, who allows that animal to be in their home, backyard or even the street, without proper care and attention can be prosecuted for animal neglect. In California, animal neglect is charged under Penal Code section 597f and to be found guilty the prosecution must prove that:
- You are the owner, driver or possessor of any animal;
- You committed a negligent act or failed to commit an act and;
- That act or failure would foreseeably cause harm to an animal.
The act or failure to act must be done consciously and voluntarily. You will only be found to be negligent if a reasonable person would have known that the act of failure to act would have caused harm to the animal. During an investigation for animal neglect the animals in question will be taken and the cost of their care will be responsibility of the owner, possessor or driver. A lien will be placed on the animal and its owner will not be able to retrieve them until the cost of care is paid.
The protected animals are not just dogs and cats but can include: horses, birds, rabbits, chickens, roosters, ducks, turtles and guinea pigs. Examples of animal neglect include:
- Recklessly creating a high risk of bodily harm to the animal
- Evidence that the animal is thin or dehydrated due to lack of food, water, shelter and protection from the weather
- Keepings dogs in kennels on your property without the proper license
- Evidence of malnourishment
- Willful abandonment
- Locking up an animal without proper food or water
- Failure to provide a confined animal with adequate exercise area
- Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle without proper ventilation.
Animal Neglect is California is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and or a fine or $1,000 (excluding the cost of care which the owner must pay to regain possession, discussed above). California has one of the most comprehensive Animal Neglect and Animal Cruelty laws in the nation, if you are charged with this crime consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about your legal rights and defenses.
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