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What Is Considered Animal Abuse Under California Law?

November 3, 2019

Animal cruelty laws protect all animals in California

What Is Considered Animal Abuse Under California Law?

Animals — especially pets — provoke a strong reaction in most Californians. Many of us love cats, dogs, horses, and the wild creatures that inhabit our state. Not everyone has the same love and devotion for animals — which is why California has strict laws that prohibit animal cruelty.

These laws are necessary to prevent physical abuse and other forms of harm, including neglect, overwork, and even killing. Yet in many cases, political pressure and activism result in overly aggressive investigations and prosecutions.

According to a criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA, California law prohibits maliciously, intentionally or cruelly:

  • Maiming;
  • Mutilating;
  • Torturing; or
  • Wounding a live animal; OR
  • Killing a wild animal.

It also prohibits:

  • Depriving an animal of necessary food, drink or shelter; and
  • Riding, driving, overworking or otherwise using the animal when it is unfit for labor.

These types of abuses are typically reported by veterinarians as well as members of the public.

In addition to laws that broadly prohibit animal abuse, California has specific laws that forbid cockfighting, dogfighting, leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle, sexual abuse of animals, and other potential abuse of animals, such as poisoning animals.

While animal abuse is a problem in our society, these cases can often be difficult to defend because of the public pressure that mounts whenever a person is accused of hurting or neglecting an animal. Because animals are perceived to be blameless and there is strong public support for prosecuting these types of cases, these cases are often aggressively prosecuted. However, a skilled criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA can work with you to defend against these charges.

For example, if you are charged with animal abuse because your dog died after being kept at home all day in extremely hot temperatures with no water, your attorney may be able to argue that there was no neglect —because what happened was an accident. Your air conditioning may have broken, leading to intolerably hot conditions. And your dog may have knocked over his water bowl, as he sometimes does, leaving him without water (or perhaps he simply drank it all because it was so hot in the house).

Animal abuse is a wobbler under California law, which means that it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the facts of the case and your criminal history. If you are convicted of misdemeanor animal abuse, you may be sentenced to up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $20,000. Felony animal abuse is punishable by between 16 months and 3 years in California state prison, and a maximum fine of $20,000. In addition, you may have any animals permanently removed from your care, be charged with the expense associated with caring for the animals, be required to undergo court-ordered counseling, and/or be sentenced to an additional 1 year in state prison if you used a deadly or dangerous weapon.

While animal abuse charges can be challenging to defend against, a seasoned criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA can help. At the Chambers Law Firm, we represent clients charged with a range of California criminal offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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