Animal Cruelty or Animal Abuse in San Diego

San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

Animal Cruelty (also known as “Animal Abuse” or “Animal Neglect”) in California, especially San Diego, is a serious offense. California has some of the most extensive Animal Cruelty laws of any state.

Animal cruelty charges are not as common as other areas of criminal law, however, animal cruelty charges are aggressively prosecuted by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Often the prosecutor will have special expertise in animal cruelty cases.

Additionally, animal cruelty cases are often given a high level of media attention. Animal cruelty charges are serious and anyone charged should consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney. If you are convicted of an animal cruelty charge, you could face a felony conviction on your permanent record as well as potential jail sentence or even prison.

The Law Office of Gregory Garrison has successfully defended many clients against animal cruelty charges. Protect your freedom and your reputation in the community. Call the Law Office of Gregory garrison today to discuss your legal options.

California Law and Animal Cruelty ChargesSan Diego criminal defense lawyer gregory garrison

In California, there are many Animal Cruelty laws designed to protect domestic cats and dogs, other pets kept in the home, stray dogs and cats, wild animals, as well as farm animals.

California Penal Code section 597 is the primary animal abuse law that is used in most cases. Penal Code section 597 can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

The Law Office of Gregory Garrison has successfully negotiated misdemeanor plea deals for many clients originally charged with a felony. Having a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor prevents the client from suffering the hardships in obtaining a job or housing associated with a felony conviction.

To convict a person of animal cruelty, the government must prove:

  1. The defendant maimed, mutilated, tortured, or wounded a living animal or killed a living animal, AND
  1. The defendant acted maliciously.

Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to disturb, annoy, or injure an animal.

Other California Laws Protecting Animals

In addition to the acts prohibited by California Penal Code section 597, there are many other Penal Code sections that address other specific acts of animal cruelty:

  • Poisoning Animals (Penal Code section 596)
  • Selling dogs younger than eight (8) weeks old (Penal Code section 597z).
  • Failing to provide reasonable care to animals in pet stores (Penal Code section 597l)
  • Dog Fighting (Penal Code section section 5)
  • Organizing animal fighting for entertainment (Penal Code section 597b)
  • Intentionally tripping horses (Penal Code section 597g)
  • Cockfighting (Penal Code sections 597b, 597c, 597i, 597j)
  • Bullfighting (Penal Code section 597m)
  • Shortening the tail of a horse or cattle (Penal Code section 597n)
  • Confining an animal without space to exercise, or using a leash rope or chain which may entangle the animal, to restrict the animal without access to adequate shelter, food and water (Penal Code 597t)
  • Declawing an exotic or native wild cat (Penal Code section 6)
  • Attaching a live animal to a devise for the purpose of getting a dog to chase it (Penal Code section 597h)
  • Transporting animals in an inhumane manner (Penal Code section 597a)
  • Leaving an animal in an unattended car and the conditions could endanger the animal’s health (Penal Code section 7)
  • Transporting disabled horses, ponies, burros or donkeys for slaughter out of state (Penal Code section 597x)

Penalties and Punishment

Prosecutors have the discretion to file an animal cruelty charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the charge is filed as a misdemeanor or a felony will depend on the following considerations:

  • Whether the animal was killed or injured
  • The criminal history of the accused
  • Whether the accused has any prior convictions for animal cruelty
  • Any mitigating circumstances such as defending yourself or another


Potential Penalties for Misdemeanor Animal Cruelty:

  • misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record
  • up to one year in county jail
  • counseling for anger management
  • restitution to the animal’s owner
  • removal of the animal if the accused is the owner
  • associated costs of the care and housing of the animal
  • standard Court fees and fines


Potential Penalties for Felony Animal Cruelty:

  • felony conviction on your criminal record
  • up to 3 years in state prison (most defendants are probation eligible)
  • counseling for anger management
  • restitution to the animal’s owner
  • removal of the animal if the accused is the owner
  • associated costs of the care and housing of the animal
  • standard Court fees and fines

Free Consultation Call (619) 615-4216

Defenses Against Animal Cruelty Charges

Law enforcement often investigates allegations of animal abuse or neglect without conducting a thorough investigation into whether the abuse actually occurred, who actually committed the abuse, and whether there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the abuse. Identifying legitimate defenses to animal cruelty charges will often lead to a reduction in charges and even outright dismissal of the charges.

Common Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges:

  • Self Defense: California law allows you to defend yourself if attacked by an animal threatening you harm. The success of the defense of self defense will often depend on whether you used a reasonable amount of force.
  • Defense of Others: California law also allows you to defend others, especially family members, who are threatened or attacked by an animal. Here again, the defense depends on how much force was used and whether it was a reasonable amount.
  • Defense of Property: Just as you can defend yourself or someone else, California law allows you to defend your property. For example, if your neighbor’s dog attacks your dog, you have the legitimate right to defend your dog against injury. Here again, only a reasonable amount of force may be used.
  • Accident: If you injured or killed an animal, however, you did so without malicious intent, then you have a legitimate defense to the charge of animal cruelty. This defense depends largely on the surrounding facts and circumstances of the act.

San Diego Animal Cruelty Defense Attorneys

The Law Office of Gregory Garrison is well versed in California animal cruelty charges. We have successfully defended many clients accused of various acts of animal cruelty. We have a successful track record of obtaining dismissals, reductions in sentence, and reductions in charges.

The Law Office of Gregory Garrison is aggressive in its defense of clients ensuring their rights are safeguarded at every stage of the proceedings. Our office will perform further investigation, conduct a thorough examination of the prosecutor’s evidence, strengthen your case by interviewing additional witnesses, and ready your case for trial. If a plea agreement is in the best interest of the client, we will find the best alternative to jail time. Alternatives to jail are work furlough, public works, community service, home confinement, and ankle monitoring.

If you or a family member has been charged with animal cruelty, animal abuse, or animal neglect, both freedom and reputation are at stake. Call the experienced animal abuse attorneys at the Law Office of Gregory Garrison for a no-cost confidential consultation to discuss your case and your legal options. Call us today to learn how we can help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case.

(619) 615-4216

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