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Animal Cruelty & Animal Neglect
PC 597(a) Law, Sentence, & Defense

Information on the crime of animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse is found at California penal code section 597.


PC 597(a) Law: Any person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills an animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so over driven, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or having the charge of custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is guilty of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect (Abbreviated).

The most common criminal charge of animal cruelty or neglect is filed under PC 597(a); however, other related animal abuse charges may be filed against a defendant depending on the circumstances of the case. Consider the following related animal abuse crimes and their related criminal charge:

  • Placement of animals in small kennels for long periods of time or with other animals in the same kennel without sufficient room to move for long periods of time (PC 597(a) & PC 597f)

  • Deprivation of food, water, or proper shelter for animals for long periods of time (PC 597f)

  • Working an animal, such as a horse, for long period of time without proper rest for the animal (PC 597(b))

  • Unreasonable physical pain inflicted on an animal (PC 597(a) & PC 597(b))

  • Making animals fight other animals, such as dog or cock fighting (PC 597j(a) & PC 597(b)

  • Killing or maiming an animal on purpose and without legal justification (PC 597(a))

  • Leave an animal unattended in a vehicle (PC 597.7(a) & PC 597f)


PC 597(a) Sentence

PC 597(a) may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

Misdemeanor PC 597(a): If found guilty of PC 597(a) as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to 180 days in jail. Misdemeanor animal cruelty, abuse or neglect is charged as PC597(a)-M in San Bernardino County.


Felony PC 597(a): if found guilty of PC 597(a) as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in jail. Felony animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect is charged as PC597(a)-F in San Bernardino County. In some cases, it is be possible to have felony PC 597(a) charges reduced to misdemeanor charges.

Note: Prison sentences for animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect may now be served in local county jails, as opposed to state prison, under new California criminal law. Also, a county prison sentence for PC 597(a) may be split or suspended if the court is so willing. A split sentence means that the defendant serves a portion of his or her sentence in jail and the balance of that sentence out of jail on work release or house arrest. A suspended sentence is a jail sentence that is not served unless the defendant fails to complete the terms of his or her probation sentence. See PC 1170(a) & Work Release.


Probation Sentence

A probation sentences, with or without an actual in-custody jail term as part of that probation sentence, may is allowed in PC 597(a) cases depending on the facts of the case, the defendant's criminal history, and the court's willingness.

CIMT: PC 597(a) charges may be considered crimes involving moral turpitude if the charge is based on intentional animal cruelty. Crimes involving moral turpitude are considered morally wrong crimes any they carry special punishments for non United States citizens and licensed professionals (i.e. doctors, dentist, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc.).

Three Strikes Law: PC 597(a) crimes is not a serious or violent offense and it is not considered a strike crime under California's Three Strikes Law.

In addition to the penalties and sentences described above, if found guilty of animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect under PC 597(a), the defendant may be placed on felony or misdemeanor probation, ordered to pay fines, be restrained from owning or caring for animals, face professional license restrictions & immigration consequences (for non U.S. citizens), be ordered to pay restitution for damage to any animal owner (excluding defendant), lose the rights to own firearms (for felony PC 597(a) convictions, and more.

Defenses to PC 597

Common defenses to animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect charged under PC 597(a) include, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence to prove the allegations, improper police procedure (such as illegal search and seizure or coerced confessions), mistake of fact, and more. For more information on common defenses to PC 597(a) please see Defenses to Crime.

If you or a loved one is charged with animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect under PC 597(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay for a free consultation. Our experienced criminal attorneys will discuss your rights and defense options. We are available everyday to assist you. Call today!


Quick Reference

Crime: Animal Cruelty & Neglect

Code: PC 597(a) (CalCrim No. 2953)

Wobbler: PC 597(a) is a wobbler crime. PC 597(a) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Incarceration:Felony PC 597(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 180 days.

Probation: Probation may be available in PC 597(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(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 PC 597(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.​

Bail: $50,000 (Felony) $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino).


Firearms: Felony PC 597(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm. ​​​​

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