Assembly Bill 1290: Expanding the Definition of Theft of a Companion Animal and Its Legal Implications

Assembly Bill 1290, a significant legislative advancement, sought to broaden the definition of a companion animal to animals other than simply dogs for purposes of theft of a companion animal. The amendment to Penal Code sections 487(e)-(f) and 491 aimed to offer greater protection to all animals that are generally considered pets.

Definition of Theft of a Companion Animal

Historically, Animal Theft Laws Primarily Focused on Dogs Due to Their Long-standing Role as Loyal Companions. However, AB 1290 Recognized the Emotional Significance of Various Animals in People's Lives and Sought to Extend the Protections Afforded to Companion Animals Beyond Simply Canines. the Bill Amended Penal Code Sections 487(e)-(f) and 491 to Incorporate a Broader Scope of Animals Into the Definition of Theft, Ensuring Their Wellbeing and Safeguarding the Rights of Their Owners. if the Estimated Cost of the Companion Animal is $950 or Greater, a Defendant Could Be Charged With grand Theft, a felony; However, if the Companion Animal is Valued at Less Than $950, the Defendant Could Be Charged With petty Theft, a misdemeanor.

Legal Implications of the Expansion

Enhanced Penalties for Offenders: By including animals other than dogs in the definition of theft, AB 1290 subjects offenders to more severe penalties for committing theft or maliciously depriving pet owners of their companions. The broader scope of the law aims to deter potential criminals and emphasizes the seriousness with which society views the theft of pets.

Heightened Legal Protections: AB 1290 enables law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue more cases involving the theft of various companion animals, such as birds, ferrets, and snakes, with greater legal backing.

Increased Awareness and Prevention: The enactment of AB 1290 also raises awareness about the significance of animals as companions and family members. By acknowledging the emotional bond between humans and their animal companions, the legislation contributes to the prevention of animal theft and encourages responsible pet ownership.

Potential Challenges in Identifying Companion Animals: One potential legal implication of expanding the definition of theft to include a wider array of animals is the challenge in identifying which animals qualify as companions. While the legislation provides a broader framework, the courts may face difficulties in determining whether an animal is genuinely a companion, particularly in cases where the accused claims lack of awareness about the animal's status.

Animals Excluded From the Act

Although Assembly Bill 1290 sought to include a more comprehensive range of animals within the definition of theft, certain categories of animals remain excluded from the act. For example, laboratory animals, wild animals, and exotic animals are not considered companion animals for purposes of this bill. Furthermore, the bill specifically excludes livestock from the expanded definition of theft of a companion animal. Livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and poultry, are primarily raised for agricultural purposes and are subject to separate laws governing livestock theft, which is governed by Penal Code section 487a.

Ultimately, AB 1290 marks a significant step forward in protecting the welfare of companion animals beyond dogs and acknowledges their emotional significance in people's lives. By amending Penal Code sections 487(e)-(f) and 491, AB 1290 expands the definition of theft to include various cherished animals, ensuring enhanced legal protections for their owners.

If you have been charged with theft of a companion animal, it is critical that you discuss your case immediately with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience defending people against theft crimes.

For more information about theft crimes, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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