Many pet owners in California take their companions with them as they run errands or travel. Generally, there’s nothing wrong with driving with a pet. However, pet owners can face legal issues if they leave an animal alone in a vehicle.
California Penal Code Section 597.7: Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle charges can lead to serious legal trouble for pet owners. Find out how PC 597.7 charges are applied in California’s legal system with the Simmrin Law Group.
Legally Defining Penal Code Section 597.7
Pet owners may face charges for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle under PC 597.7. According to this charge, individuals are not legally permitted to confine a pet in a motor vehicle if the pet’s health or well-being will be endangered by:
- Heat or cold
- Lack of ventilation
- Lack of water or food
- Other dangerous circumstances
Note that PC 597.7 also contains a section that makes it legally allowable for other individuals to remove a pet from a vehicle if they believe the animal’s conditions could lead to:
This means that, under PC 597.7, individuals can forcibly enter someone’s vehicle to remove an animal. Individuals who use force to break into another person’s vehicle in this situation should not be charged with vandalism, malicious mischief to a vehicle, or other charges in California.
Going Over the Results of a PC 597.7 Conviction
Pet owners in California can face different penalties for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle. The court will take into consideration whether or not this is the first offense for this charge. Additionally, whether or not the animal is severely injured will be an important factor in determining punishment.
A first-time PC 597.7 violation for an event that did not cause the animal serious injuries is an infraction and could lead to fines of up to $100. A first-time conviction where an animal suffers a serious bodily injury is charged as a misdemeanor and could result in:
- Fines of up to $500
- Jail time of up to six months
- Summary probation
Subsequent convictions for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle are also charged as misdemeanors and can result in the penalties listed.
Comparing PC 597.7 to Animal Abuse Charges
Leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle can be considered an act of cruelty to an animal. Depending upon the severity of the case, prosecutors can sometimes push for harsher charges under California Penal Code Section 597: Animal Cruelty.
A conviction for animal cruelty can lead to steeper penalties, including:
- Fines of up to $20,000
- Prison time of up to three years
- Supervised probation
Individuals may also have their pets removed from their care if convicted of animal cruelty.
Considering Defenses for Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle
You do not have to take on PC 597.7 charges in California alone. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles may be able to help you handle these accusations. Generally, building a defense against PC 597.7 charges involves demonstrating that your animal was not in danger. Take a look at three of the most common arguments used against this charge.
You Were Not Going to Leave Your Animal Alone for Long
Sometimes, a quick run into a store can take only moments. In many situations, this is not long enough for your pet to be endangered in a vehicle. If you were only going to be gone for a short period, you might be able to prove that you were not putting your pet in danger.
You Ensured Your Pet Had Adequate Ventilation
Leaving an animal in a car with all the windows shut can be dangerous. But if you cracked your windows and the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, you could be able to avoid a PC 597.7 charge in Los Angeles.
Your Pet Was Not Hungry or Thirsty
You know better than anyone when your pet last ate or drank. If you fed and watered your pet right before going on a car trip, it can be unlikely that the animal needed more to eat or drink right away. This can help you avoid a PC 597.7 conviction.
Examples of Potential PC Section 597.7 Violations
Take a look at the following examples to get a better understanding of the types of actions that can result in a charge under California Penal Code 597.7.
A woman takes her dog with her when she goes to the spa. It is a hot day, and she leaves the dog in the car with the windows up for over three hours without food or water while she is gone. She comes back and finds her dog unconscious. She brings it to the vet and tells them what happened. They are able to revive the dog.
The woman would likely face a misdemeanor charge under California PC Section 597.7. She may also face a charge of animal cruelty under PC Section 597.
A man takes his dog with him as he drives around town doing errands. Temperatures are mild, and when he goes to the pharmacy, he leaves the dog in the car with the windows cracked and is back in less than five minutes. The man likely wouldn’t be found in violation of PC 597.7
A woman takes her dog with her when she goes to the store to buy some juice. It’s a warm day but not exceptionally hot. She leaves the windows cracked and heads into the store. She grabs the juice and is on her way to pay when she runs into a friend. They talk for half an hour, and then she buys her juice and leaves the store. Her dog is fine but a little thirsty.
In this scenario, a conviction under Penal Code 597.7 could go either way. If it is the first offense, the woman would only face an infraction charge, as the dog did not suffer a serious bodily injury. However, she would have a decent chance of arguing against any charge.
Speak With a Lawyer About Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle Charges
Take California Penal Code Section 597.7: Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle charges seriously by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. Speak with our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles right now by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call.
You can review your legal options for handling PC 597.7 charges with a free initial case evaluation.