The Bullshit of CA PC 597(b)

  PC597  (b)  California (“animal abuse”)

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c) of this section or Section 599c, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

(b) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) or (c), every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked,

tortured, tormented,

deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter,

or to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed;

and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather,  or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d)

(c) Every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, or tortures any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish, as described in subdivision (e), is guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

(d)  A violation of subdivision (a), (b), or (c) is punishable as a felony by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or alternatively, as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

In our opinion, the words in RED above are likely felony crimes, if proven. Anything done maliciously to maim, mutilate or torture, as well. As for everything else, it would depend exactly on what was or was not done.

In general, NEGLECT is not always a felony. Actual ABUSE might be. If you neglected to comb your kid’s hair or their fingernails were long, would that be actual felony abuse or neglect? Likely not abuse.  If you fed your kids but they were not overweight and not actually underweight would that be abuse? again, hardly.   But because the neglect/abuse of the ANIMAL code is gleaned from the CA Welfare and Institutions Code (child neglect), then the DAs are prone to pretending that the animals are children and applying a higher standard where not warranted.

Let us pretend you end up owning  4 rescued horses that were dumped off on your land. They are already old and one has (eventually) what appears to be melanoma. If you keep the animals, feed them, and they are not overweight, but you can see some ribs in the older ones (horses are likely 20-25+ years old) but all are adequately fed, [despite not being overweight], they have large areas of land and shelter, water, shade;  and their hooves on a few could use trimming, but they are not extra long hooves and not curled—could you be charged with felony abuse for those 4 rescued horses?

Well in Southern California not only would the DA charge you with felony abuse, they will put up a photo of a horse that is:   300lb overweight and then claim you were not adequately feeding and thus, your horse doesn’t look like the overweight horse? Even in Northern CA this can happen. They will seize animals that have nothing wrong with them and then claim they are “emaciated.”

…and then:   using the “BCS” scale (body condition score) inappropriately, having non professionals who do not know how to use it, apply it inappropriately …. [horse experts do not believe the BCS is appropriate for determining neglect by non experts, plus it should actually not be used in reality for that purpose], since claimed abuse can easily be distorted by those who have very little experience with animal husbandry, especially if they are working for the DA to begin with..

—>Any horse case which has charges filed or where the horses are still on the property should immediately have the horses examined by a vet who knows equines. NOT an inexperienced vet. Have the vet write down his or her recommendation (what food, what other remedies if any, are needed; if none, state none are needed.)

IT is very key to have a competent and available VET available early in the game as to how your animals were taken care of…without this, you have no expert. On cases like that, when there is lack of expert, there should be those who know the animals who can vouch for you, even if they are not your friends. Even with a vet, it is possible a jury won’t believe you regardless.  Most of the time in cases like that, we ask owners to consider taking a plea to a lesser count just to avoid the harshness of the way the code is written. Until anyone changes the wording of the above code, many more animals will continue to be seized repeatedly. Which often gives rescues and humane groups opportunity to exploit the public.

—>If a horse needs to be put down and you don’t hire a vet to euthanize it, pay someone else to kill it [usually requires shooting in the head] and have the person bury the horse or transport it out. DO NOT LEAVE THE HORSE[S] on the property as that will just cause animal control to seize it or them, and charge you with abuse. Should you fail to follow the animal control, they will seize your herd and charge you with animal abuse. Hiring an attorney even at that stage will NOT stop animal control. ———>  NEVER, EVER tell anyone that you harmed or killed an animal or used anything which is not legal for that purpose. DO NOT even say anything remotely like this at all, even when you did not do it, or are just being or trying to be, sarcastic, funny or just plain silly.

The person you say it to may come back to haunt you with it, claiming you made that statement. After that, it’s almost impossible to keep that statement out of court, even if it was a joke. This was seen clearly years ago, when a Father texted to his son–“If you hurt my dogs I will kill you”…..  and the Prosecutor blasted that phrase onto the projector in a huge 4 x 5′ screen on the wall.  Needless to say–the jury believed the text, because the Son ended up with a knife in his stomach and he died. Despite being drunk the Father was convicted of first degree murder. We heavily blame the TEXT message as evidence the jury believed, even if the Son ran up on the blade and the Father was drunk [which he was.]

‘The professional (Don Henneke) who designed the BCS scale for working with horses in Texas, published his own opinion that the BCS scale was being widely used inappropriately by animal control, humane groups, rescues and non profits who like to seize animals?  and in nearly all cases, it was a humane group or animal control that claimed the abuse–and in CA– there was nearly always a “seizure” under PC 597 or PC 597.1…..

What this amounts to is this:  if you own horses, or have horses dumped on your property, in California, you should immediately write, call, and get animal control to understand that you will NOT remain responsible for the animal and that they need to find a way to remove it because it is not yours. If a stray dog decided to stay on your property, you are under no obligation to keep it. You need only notify animal control to retrieve it unless you bring it in yourself.

Normally when horses are dumped on people’s property, they don’t want to spend the money and time to get rid of the horse. It’s not your property so if you  move it off your property then animal control refuses to take it, it’s not really your problem.  But you should make sure that animal control knows it is not yours, and you are not responsible for it. IF  you allow it to remain, you end up being responsible for that animal, period. There is no other result. We can only tell people what we think they should do, we can’t force them to do it.

Most cases will not end up at trial but before that happens, it is always best to consider your options. We do not always recommend plea deals but if it will save your money, time and property, and the emotional distress of a trial, in some cases it is better to take the plea deal. In some instances, when you are nearly guaranteed a win on appeal because of the law, you might not take a deal.

See this case, even if it was not a published case, it’s possible that it sets groundwork for some other case appeals. SAN DIEGO DOG RESCUE APPEAL   This case shows that not all PC 597.1 cases are handled correctly by the government.

Currently, we are aware of two key animal cases involving PC 597.1 which    involve an AR key player who has a lot of knowledge of the statute PC 597.1 because he likely helped draft the law. Recent attempted amendments to PC 597.1 were turned down by the legislature. So the two key cases we are aware of, both have issues with PC597.1 and involve the issue of whether the owner whose animals were seized, does or does not have a right to a post seizure hearing?

According to the wording of the statute, if exigent circumstances or a warrant is used, the code does not say that one gets a post seizure hearing. (see (h) further down); the only indication is that it was “properly seized”….which leaves open the issue that it may have been IMproperly seized, right???

(f) Whenever an officer authorized under this section seizes or impounds an animal based on a reasonable belief that prompt action is required to protect the health or safety of the animal or the health or safety of others, the officer shall, prior to the commencement of any criminal proceedings authorized by this section, provide the owner or keeper of the animal, if known or ascertainable after reasonable investigation, with the opportunity for a postseizure hearing to determine the validity of the seizure or impoundment, or both.

(g) Where the need for immediate seizure is not present and prior to the commencement of any criminal proceedings authorized by this section, the agency shall provide the owner or keeper of the animal, if known or ascertainable after reasonable investigation, with the opportunity for a hearing prior to any seizure or impoundment of the animal. The owner shall produce the animal at the time of the hearing unless, prior to the hearing, the owner has made arrangements with the agency to view the animal upon request of the agency, or unless the owner can provide verification that the animal was humanely destroyed. Any person who willfully fails to produce the animal or provide the verification is guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).

(h) If any animal is properly seized under this section or pursuant to a search warrant, the owner or keeper shall be personally liable to the seizing agency for the cost of the seizure and care of the animal. Further, if the charges for the seizure or impoundment and any other charges permitted under this section are not paid within 14 days of the seizure, or if the owner, within 14 days of notice of availability of the animal to be returned, fails to pay charges permitted under this section and take possession of the animal, the animal shall be deemed to have been abandoned and may be disposed of by the seizing agency. **Notice there is nothing said about the right to a post seizure or any seizure hearing. We assume that as atty Wagman from S.F. has stated on the record, it’s the “legislature’s” fault..however, we have information that in fact, animal control officers have been told at a training class that they should give owners the document after a seizure, advising that they can ask for a post seizure hearing??? We bet our bottom dollar that was because a lawsuit was already filed last year where the owners did NOT get a post seizure hearing, even with an illegal seizure.

(i) If the animal requires veterinary care and the humane society or public agency is not assured, within 14 days of the seizure of the animal, that the owner will provide the necessary care, the animal shall not be returned to its owner and shall be deemed to have been abandoned and may be disposed of by the seizing agency. A veterinarian may humanely destroy an impounded animal without regard to the prescribed holding period when it has been determined that the animal has incurred severe injuries or is incurably crippled. A veterinarian also may immediately humanely destroy an impounded animal afflicted with a serious contagious disease unless the owner or his or her agent immediately authorizes treatment of the animal by a veterinarian at the expense of the owner or agent.


(j) No animal properly seized under this section or pursuant to a search warrant shall be returned to its owner until the owner can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the seizing agency or hearing officer that the owner can and will provide the necessary care for the animal.

BUT WAIT,,,THERE’S MORE….. from the Greg Hill& Associates Law office, they posted that they had a case of alleged animal abuse (PC 597.1) out of Long Beach, there were 21 dogs (imagine the fees that would mount up), they were breeding dogs and boarding dogs…owner was cited for neglect under PC 597.1/AC seized 21 dogs with a search warrant.

We all know that one doesn’t need a search warrant to view dogs unless they suspect there is some underlying potential that abuse or illegal activity is going on. Supposedly one dog had an open wound and another dog was sick (from digesting a rag..) In any event, the fees started to mount up, there were 21 counts of violating 597.1, and 5 counts for unsafe tethering. Hill worked a deal to take one count under PC597.1, misdemeanor, 5 yr summary probation, 30 days community service, 16 session of an animal abuse prevention program, pay vax fee/kennel costs (at $20k, down from $30k) and no jail time. We assume he also got the animals back without a hearing.

We are sure for some people, they would not consider this to be a good deal even with jail time avoided. To be honest, if there was no proof of actual abuse, or actual neglect, and the warrant was sound, the client would have to have paid the upfront storage fees to get any dogs back. So since he paid the $20k for storage/took a plea/etc, one count of 597.1 w/o actual abuse would not mean jail time most likely.             But because Long Beach and animal control (which has APBT issues there)           were gung ho to seize everything, as is typical with animal control in CA, paying the 20k and getting the dogs back wasn’t that  bad, even if he got a misdemeanor record. The fact that he could come up with the 20k was the part most people can’t do. If his dogs sell for 5k each then maybe it wasn’t that difficult? LOL  if you are in the So Cal area  +have a  PC 597 case you might want to call them.