California Penal Code Section 597.7 PC: Leaving A Pet Unattended in a Vehicle

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

unattended pet

It is not unusual to see dogs and other animals left in vehicles while their owners attend to other business. However, when conditions are too hot or too cold, or if the animal is not left proper sustenance or ventilation, the animal could be at risk for serious injuries or even death. As a result, it is illegal to leave a pet unattended in a motor vehicle under California Penal Code Section 597.7 PC.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of this offense, the prosecutor must be able to establish that he or she left or confined an animal in a motor vehicle that endangered the health or well-being of the animal due to:

  1. Heat
  2. Cold
  3. Lack of adequate ventilation
  4. Lack of food or water
  5. OR any other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability or death

Law enforcement officers who observe an animal in a vehicle that they reasonable believe may be suffering are entitled to take whatever actions necessary to help the animal, including smashing windows or prying open car doors.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Animal Abuse - California Penal Code Section 597 PC

3. Examples

A man goes to the mall on a hot day and brings his pet dog with him. While the man goes inside the mall, he leaves the pet outside in the car with the windows cracked and with no water. Even with the windows cracked open, the interior temperature of a car can reach extremely high temperatures on hot days. Thus it is very likely that the man could be charged criminally with leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle in violation of California Penal Code Section 597.7 PC.

In another example, a man has to stop at the grocery store on a very mild day. He is only in the store for five minutes, and leaves his dog in his car while he shops. Although he leaves no food or water, the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold to affect the dog’s health. The man probably would not be charged with leaving the dog unattended, as there was no risk to the animal’s health or safety. In many cases, it is a close call as to when one is permitted to leave an animal unattended in a car.

4. Defenses to Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle

As described above, there are many situations in which one can leave a pet unattended in a vehicle, and there can often be disagreement as to what point this act becomes criminal. The factual circumstances of each individual case must be fully examined. In many cases, the time a pet was left in a vehicle was so brief that no harm could have been done. In other cases, overzealous officers or good samaritans may think a pet is in danger when it is not. An effective Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can show why his client’s actions did not rise to level of criminal misconduct.

5. Penalties

A first time conviction for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle is an infraction that carries a $100 fine, as long as the animal did not suffer great bodily injury. If the animal did suffer great bodily injury, the offense is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in jail and extensive court fines. Any second or subsequent conviction for this offense is automatically a misdemeanor.

6. Criminal Defense for Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle Cases

Leaving a pet unattended in a motor vehicle is a criminal offense that can carry criminal penalties. If you or someone you know have been charged with leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle, it is crucial that you speak with a reputable Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience. Mr. Kraut is highly respected by judges, district attorneys and law enforcement officers as a skilled litigator who possesses a strong understanding of the law.

For more information about leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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