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Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Defense Attorney

Most people have a general understanding of what is meant by the phrase “animal cruelty.” On the other hand, the law in California on the subject – PC 597 and the sections that precede and follow it – provide immense detail in the types of behavior which are considered “animal cruelty” under the Penal Code.

If you are charged with animal cruelty, you could be facing a felony or a misdemeanor charge. In some cases, the Penal Code does not provide much in the way of explanation or guidance as to why one animal cruelty charge would be filed as a misdemeanor and other as a felony. But the fact is that there are a large number of acts that may fit into one of the many types of animal cruelty described in the statute.

What is “Animal Cruelty” under the California Penal Code?

The following is a relatively brief description of the types of behavior that could be charged as animal cruelty in California, and in some cases exceptions that could provide a defense to an animal cruelty charge:

  • Poisoning an animal belonging to another person. This is a misdemeanor unless the person charged used the poison on his own property for purposes of protecting his livestock and posted the appropriate signage about the presence of poisoned bait.
  • Abusive behavior toward an elephant. The statute makes it a misdemeanor to discipline an elephant through physical punishment, or deprivation of food or water, among other acts.
  • It is an infraction to fail to have an attending or on-call veterinarian for a rodeo, who is charged with reporting any animal injuries.
  • Abuse of Animals. PC 597 targets the “malicious and intentional” killing, torturing, overworking, overloading, failing to provide food and water, beating, killing, etc. of animals. This is a wobbler and could lead to a sentence of several years in prison if filed as a felony.
  • Dog Fighting. Training dogs to fight at an exhibition.
  • Lack of Care and Treatment. Failure to provide for the care and treatment of certain animals.
  • Possession of implements traditionally attached to birds during a cockfight.
  • Penned Animals. Failure to provide exercise for animals in pens.

We could go on, as the law covers a host of different animals and cruel behavior that could fall into one or more of the prohibitions in the statute, and result in an animal cruelty charge. Suffice it to say that specific types of animals are protected under the statute, from a variety of “cruel” behavior.

Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges

If you have been charged with animal cruelty, it is essential that you understand precisely what conduct has been cited as illegal. Is the issue neglect? Is it abuse? Is it the type of animal involved? The animal cruelty laws in California are very specific regarding the types of animals that are protected; the situation(s) in which they are protected; and the behavior that constitutes cruelty within the meaning of each particular situation. As a result, there are potential defenses to an animal cruelty charge that are effectively built into the definition of the offense. Here are a few examples:

  • Killing or wounding an animal is not, in itself, a criminal offense. The statute requires specifically that the act you are accused of performing was done “maliciously and intentionally.” As a result, a collision between your car and a deer running across the road will likely be seen as an accident over which you had little or no control.
  • Is the Animal Protected? The animal cruelty laws in California do not protect every living animal. Most people would agree that squashing a mosquito does not fall within the definition of animal cruelty. Although the law specifically protects household pets, farm animals, game animals, mammals, etc., your case may involve an animal that is not within the class protected under the statute.
  • In some cases, the law specifically authorizes euthanization of various animals under certain conditions.
  • Self-Defense. It may, at first glance, appear odd to raise a self-defense claim involving an animal attack. On the other hand, angry animals, and those protecting their families, can cause serious injuries if they result in attacks on a human.

Once again, the fact that you have been accused of animal cruelty is just the beginning. Defenses are available that may apply in your case.

Animal Cruelty Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

If you have been charged with animal cruelty, either as an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony, there is much at stake in the outcome. The record, if you are convicted, may follow you for the rest of your life, along with the social stigma of that conviction. Rest assured, however, that there are defenses available in these cases. For example, what looks like cruelty may be something entirely different.

Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Chris Bou Saeed understands these charges and will work hard to ensure that you take advantage of all possible defenses. Contact Chris for a free consultation to discuss your animal cruelty case. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005

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