Written by attorney William Mark Weinberg

Animal Cruelty Laws in California


Animal Cruelty


Penal Code section 597 covers conduct relating to Animal Cruelty. This conduct is punishable by up to one year in county jail or a term in State Prison.

Animal Cruelty refers to the maltreatment of animals which causes them suffering, both physical and psychological. While the standards of what constitutes suffering vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are some important distinctions between the types of personalities which engage in this conduct.

Zoosadism, the deliberate desire to inflict cruelty upon animals, is to be distinguished from a single act of cruelty which is the product of an emotional outbreak caused by some external pressure.

The best example of the latter form is the situation where a person has been psychologically stressed by an incessantly barking dog. Usually, these scenarios involve a neighbor who is unwilling and even hostile to solving the problem of the barking dog, thereby increasing pressure on the abuser, especially since local code enforcement is a chronically under-funded government function.

The abuser reaches a point of no return, plotting and scheming to end the stress by either an outright killing of the animal, or in some cases, poisoning the animal to make it suffer or quiet. Oftentimes, the abuser doesn't calculate correctly the amount of poison he or she administers, and kills the animal, thereby increasing the likelihood of serious punishment.

Other circumstances of abuse have occurred in isolated instances, including a well-reported road rage incident.

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