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Dog Fighting Law & Defense
PC 597.5(a) Crimes

Information on the crime of dog fighting is found at California penal code section 597.5(a). This articles deals with owning, possessing, or training dogs to fight; however, keep in mind that it may also be a crime to attend a dog fight, watch a dog fight, or promote a dog fight. 

PC 597.5(a) Law


PC 597.5(a): Any person who owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog, with the intent that the dog shall be engaged in an exhibition of fighting with another dog, for amusement or financial gain, is guilty of dog fighting (Abbrev.).

Note: it is also a violation of PC 597.5(a) if a person allows dog fighting on his or her property even if the owner of the property does not himself or herself keep or train dogs to fight. Also, possession of a dog does not mean that the dog has to be physically near the dog's owner. Possession simply means that the dog's owner controls the dog's training, personally or through another person, even if someone else is in actual physical possession of the dog.

Exceptions: It is not considered dog fighting to use dogs to management livestock, assist in hunting, or train for use in law enforcement.

PC 597.5 Penalties

PC 597.5(a): Dog fighting is charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor (wobbler). If the defendant is found guilty of a felony PC 597.5(a), he or she could face up to three years in jail. If found guilty of misdemeanor PC PC 597.5(a), the or she could face up to one year in the county jail (plus a up to a $50,000 fines).

PC 597.5(b): Presence at a dog fight is classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of PC 597.5(b), the defendant may be imprisoned in a county jail not to exceed on year (plus a $5,000 fine).

Probation: A probation sentence is a period of supervision instead of jail. Probation sentences are allowed in dog fighting cases, but they are not guaranteed . Whether or not a defendant receives a probation sentence after a conviction for PC 597.5(a) depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

Work Release: Work release is physical labor, such as picking up trash near a jail or highway, that serves as an alternative to actual in custody jail. A work release sentence (or house arrest sentence) is no uncommon in dog fighting cases as an alternative to jail; but, whether or not the defendant may be allowed to serve his or her jail sentence alternatively on work release or house arrest depends on the facts of the case, any plea bargaining that effects that issue, and the defendant's criminal history, if any.

PC 1170(h): If the defendant is not granted probation, or not allowed to serve his or her jail sentence alternatively on work release or house arrest, then he or she will be sentenced to a local county jail (as opposed to a state prison) and the court may allow the defendant to serve a portion of his or her jail sentence out of jail (split sentence), or the the court may allow the the defendant's jail sentence to be suspended (not served unless the defendant violates a condition of his or her probation).

Three Strikes Law: Dog fighting is not considered a strike offense in California.

Good Behavior: If the defendant is found guilty of dog fighting (PC 597.5(a)), and he or she is sentenced to jail or work release, then he or she may be entitled to one day credit for every day served (50%)

Bail: In san Bernardino County, felony dog fighting caries a bail of $25,000, and misdemeanor dog fighting carries a bail of $5,000. A court may raise or lower the bail amount in any PC 597.5 case depending on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.

In addition to the penalties listed above, if the defendant is convicted of PC 597.5, he or she could suffer the following punishments: civil lawsuits, denial of entry into the military, firearm prohibition (for felony dog fighting convictions), immigration or professional licensing consequences, criminal protective orders, fines and fees, restitution orders, and more.

Defense to PC 597.5

Common defenses to a charge of dog fighting include: mistake of fact, insufficient evidence, duress, coerced confessions, entrapment, and more.

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of dog fighting (PC 597.5(a)) or presence at a dog fight ((PC 597.5(b)), contact our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation. Call today!



Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Dog Fighting

Code: PC 597.5(a) (CalCrim No.  2953)

Wobbler: No. PC 597.5(a) is not a wobbler. This means that PC 597.5(a) is always charged as a felony.​


Incarceration: ​PC 597.5(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted).

Probation: Probation is allowed in PC 597.5(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 597.5(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: PC 597.5(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.​


Firearms: PC 597.5(a) convictions bar defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.​

Bail: $25,000 (San Bernardino County)

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