Although we don’t often think about it, California Penal Code 597 (Animal Abuse & Cruelty) is an unfortunate necessity. The need for this type of law was, perhaps, recently proven in a gruesome case concerning two small dogs, a 4-year-old mother miniature pinscher and her 4-week old puppy, who were unceremoniously stuffed into old sandbags and thrown from a car window on a dead-end street near Watsonville. Unfortunately, when animal rescuers arrived at the scene after the incident was reported, the mother was found grieving over the body of her puppy. She refused to leave him and was not calmed until his body was placed in the animal control van with her. Now, several different groups are offering a $250,000 total reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons who are responsible for this inhumane crime.
California has always stood at the forefront when it comes to progressive laws that protect animals. In fact, the state has some of the harshest animal cruelty laws in the nation. CA Penal Code 597 addressed many different types of abuse and cruelty toward animals, including wounding, mutilating or maiming an animal. There are also regulations against intentionally killing an animal, torturing an animal, or depriving them of necessary nutrition and/or hydration.
Depending on the specific facts of a particular case, animal cruelty laws provide for both misdemeanor and felony charges. In other words, many animal cruelty laws are ‘wobblers,’ meaning that it is up to prosecutors whether they will treat an individual case as a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor animal cruelty penalties include a $20,000 fine and up to 1 year in county jail. However, felony animal cruelty charges can be far more serious. In fact, besides facing a 3-year sentence in state prison and a $20,000 fine, those convicted could also be subjected to state-ordered counseling and/or additional penalties for the use of a deadly weapon in the case.