Injuring or Killing a Pet – California Penal Code PC 597

Posted by Raoul Severo | Dec 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Animal Abuse

To discourage people from intentionally harming any animals, the state of California enacted California Penal Code PC 597, otherwise known as California's Animal Abuse and Cruelty Law.

California Penal Code PC 597

The Animal Abuse and Cruelty Law under California Penal Code PC 597 is the statute that criminalizes the act of maliciously hurting or killing animals. It says that every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of a crime.

Additionally, every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed; and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime.

Lastly, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, or tortures any:

  • Endangered species or threatened species as described in Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code.
  • Fully protected birds described in Section 3511 of the Fish and Game Code.
  • Fully protected mammals described in Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 4700) of Part 3 of Division 4 of the Fish and Game Code.
  • Fully protected reptiles and amphibians described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 5050) of Division 5 of the Fish and Game Code.
  • Fully protected fish as described in Section 5515 of the Fish and Game Code.

Punishments for Violating PC 597

Animal abuse or intentionally killing or injuring animals is a California wobbler. Wobblers are crimes that can be tried and charged on different severity based on the conditions of the case. If the act did not result in death or serious bodily injuries, the defendant could be facing misdemeanor charges. However, if the act happened involving the endangerment of specific endangered species, the crime becomes a felony.

For Misdemeanors

  • One (1) year incarceration in county jail; and/or
  • Paying a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).

For Felonies

  • Three (3) to four (4) years in a California state prison; and/or
  • Paying a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)


As an alternative to jail, convicted offenders can also be subjected to probation if the court sees it fit. Probation is the privilege granted by the court to a person convicted of a criminal offense to remain in the community instead of going to prison/jail – summary probation for misdemeanor offenders while formal probation for felons.

Legal Defense

When facing PC 597 allegations, here are some of the most commonly used defenses:

  • The defendant acted in self-defense – The defendant was forced to hurt or kill the animal because his/her life was in danger. This defense argues that the life of the accused is more important than that of the animal;
  • The defendant did not intentionally harm the animal – The defendant did not harm the animal with malicious intent. This defense is used during accidents or situations that had enough evidence to have happened unintentionally;
  • The defendant was not responsible for the animal's well-being – The defendant did not was not involved in the hurting or killing of an animal. This defense implies that while an animal may have died or was hurt, the defendant was not responsible for taking care of the animal. or
  • No evidence proves the accused abused or acted cruelly to an animal.

Legal Support

Animal abuse is a serious crime that can lead to severe consequences. Being charged with committing such a crime would mean facing serious consequences and punishments. That is why if you or anyone you know ever had the misfortune of being accused of Injuring or Killing a Pet, please don't hesitate to seek professional help from a criminal defense attorney..

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