Teenager Arrested for Suspicion of Felony Animal Cruelty (CA Penal Code 597)

Rabin Nabizadeh
June 24, 2015

A young man (19) from Sierra foothills has been arrested on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals.  Law enforcement officials in Sonora were surprised to hear from the manager of an apartment complex in that same area, who showed them video surveillance footage of the teen as he kills a cat, having swung it around by the tail and thrust it to the ground.  When later identified and questioned, the young man’s explanation was this:  he had been bitten by a cat at the apartment complex about 1 week before and purposefully drive there find the cat that did it and exact his revenge.  Upon being unable to find the exact cat that bit him previously, he found the first cat around and proceeded to take out his anger on that animal.

California law is quite strict when it comes to the human treatment of animals.  In fact, the laws in this state are some of the most severe across the nation. CA Penal Code 597 addresses both the abuse of animals and ‘animal cruelty.’  Animals considered protected under this law are any domestic pets, any ‘stray’ animals, any farm animals, and wild animals.  What constitutes ‘cruelty to animals,’ however, is less easily defined.  Generally, California animal cruelty laws apply whenever a particular animal has been neglected or abused in any way.  This includes many purposeful behaviors, such as disfiguring, mutilating, wounding, torturing, or, of curse, killing an animal.  The law also covers many different forms of neglect, like deprivation of food and hydration and leaving pets or other cared-for animals in untenable outdoor situations during inclement weather.

Violation of CA PC 597 is a California ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors take your criminal history and the specific facts of your case into account when determining whether to treat your crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  A person convicted of a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge will likely be sentenced to 1 year in county jail and be subject to a $20,000 fine.  However, as in the case above, if felony cruelty to animals is the charge, penalties are severe, including the same $20,000 in fines, but up to 3 years in state prison.  Those convicted of this type of felony may also be asked to participate in state-approved counseling sessions.

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