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Animal Cruelty, Abuse & Neglect


PC 597 Crimes


The law on the crime of animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse is found at California penal code section 597 (PC 597). 


PC 597(a) Law (Abbr.)

Any person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills an animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so over driven, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or having the charge of custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is guilty of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect. 


Common circumstances of animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse cases can include, but is not limited to:

  • Placement of animals in small kennels for long periods of time or with other animals in the same kennel without sufficient room to move for long periods of time (PC 597(a) & PC 597f)
  • Deprivation of food, water, or proper shelter for animals for long periods of time (PC 597f).
  • Working an animal, such as a horse, for long period of time without proper rest for the animal (PC 597(b))
  • Unreasonable physical pain inflicted on an animal (PC 597(a) & PC 597(b))
  • Making animals fight other animals, such as dog or cock fighting (PC 597j(a) & PC 597b)
  • Killing or maiming an animal on purpose and without legal justification (PC 597(a))
  • Leave an animal unattended in a vehicle (PC 597.7(a) & PC 597f)

PC 597 Sentences

PC 597 may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.


If found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect the defendant may face up to a year in jail; if found guilty of felony animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect, the defendant may face up to three years in prison.


In some cases it may be possible to have the PC 597 charges reduced or dismissed depending on the facts. Probation sentences, without an actual in-custody jail sentence, split prison sentences, and suspended prison sentences, may also be possible depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

PC 597 charges may be considered crimes of moral turpitude where the charge is based on intentional animal cruelty. Crimes of moral turpitude are considered morally wrong crimes any they carry special punishments for non United States citizens and licensed professionals such as doctors, dentist, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc.

PC 597 crimes are not considered serious or violent offenses and they are not considered strike offenses under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law. 

In addition to the penalties and sentences described above, if found guilty of animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect under PC 597, the defendant may be placed on felony or misdemeanor probation, be ordered to pay fines, be restrained from owning or caring for animals in the future, face professional or occupational license restrictions, face immigration consequences (for non-U.S. citizens), be ordered restitution to repay for damage to any animal owner (excluding defendant), loss of rights to own firearms (for felony PC 597 convictions, and more.

Defenses to PC 597 Crimes

Common defenses to animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect charges under PC 597 include, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence to prove the allegations, improper police procedure (such as illegal search and seizure or coerced confessions), mistake of fact, and more.

For more information on the common defenses to PC 597 crimes, please visit defenses.

If you or a loved one is charged with animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect under PC 597, contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay for a free consultation. Our experienced criminal attorneys will discuss your rights defense options and we are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to assist you. Call today!



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