In California, animal abuse is not taken lightly. A person found guilty of animal cruelty is guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, a fine of not more than $20,000, or both the fine and imprisonment.

Cruelty to animals is typically divided into two categories: neglect and intentional cruelty.

  • Animal cruelty is defined as the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering, or death on an animal, usually a domestic one, beyond necessity for normal discipline.
  • An animal being deprived of its basic necessities - such as food, water, shelter, or veterinary services - constitutes intentional neglect.

Under California Penal Code section 597 a person can be arrested for:

  1. Maliciously and intentionally maiming - permanently injuring, disabling, or disfiguring, usually by depriving the use of a limb, mutilating - inflicting serious damage, torturing - inflicting severe pain as a punishment, or wounding a living animal
  2. Maliciously and intentionally killing an animal
  3. Conducting a fight between animals
  4. Confining an animal in inhumane conditions that may be harmful to their health

Further, any person who subjects any animal to needless suffering, tortures, torments, cruelly beats, mutilates, kills, or causes an animal to be overdriven, overloaded or overworked, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon an animal or in any manner abuses any animal is also subject to jail or a fine.


  1. Depending on the case, a person can be sentenced to a low term of 16 months, a midterm of 2 years or a high term 3 years, a fine of no more than $20,000, or both incarceration and a fine.
  2. Each incident of animal abuse is looked at as its own offense and can be charged separately.


  1. Self-Defense: If you injured or killed an animal while defending yourself, another person, or another animal, your actions may be excused.
  2. Accident: If there is no intention of bringing harm to an animal, you may not be found guilty of animal abuse.
  3. False Accusations/Mistaken Identity: It is not uncommon for people to be wrongly accused of a crime. If a person is innocent, yet accused of animal abuse, it is best to obtain a criminal defense attorney.

If you have been arrested for animal abuse, this is a very serious crime. If you are convicted, there is a possibility of incarceration. You will need the best attorney you can find. Give us a call for a free review of your case.