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Dog Fighting

Penal Code 597.5 PC - Dogfighting Laws in California

California law has strict laws against dogfighting, codified under Penal Code 597.5 PC, and carries harsh penalties if convicted.

Penal Code 597.5 PC - Dogfighting Laws in California
It's a crime under Penal Code 597.5 PC to keep and train a dog to engage in dogfighting.

Under this statute, it's a crime to own, possess, keep, or train a dog to engage in dog fighting. Further, being present at a dog fight is also a crime.  

PC 597.5 PC says, “any person who (1) owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog, intending to engage in an exhibition of fighting with another dog. (2) For amusement or gain, causes the dog to fight with another dog or causes them to injure each other. (3) Permits any act to be done on any premises under their control, or aids or abets that act is guilty of a felony….”  

(b) Any person who is knowingly present, as a spectator, at any place or building where preparations are being made for an exhibition of the fighting of dogs, with the intent to be present at those preparations, is guilty of an offense….”

After NFL quarterback Michael Vick was indicted for a federal crime, dogfighting became famous because his operation crossed state lines.  Let's review this state law in more detail below.

PC 597.5 - Explained

PC 597.5 covers a wide range of illegal dogfighting activities, such as any of the following:

  • Own, possess, keep, or train any dog to engage in dogfighting;
  • Cause dogs to fight or injure each other for amusement or gain;
  • Allow dogs to be trained or kept on a property you control;
  • Allow dogfighting to occur on a property you control;
  • Aid or Abet any act of dogfighting;
  • Knowingly and willingly being present at a dogfight.

Simply put, any connection with dogfighting activities is illegal under PC 597.5. You don't have to be directly involved in the training or fighting of the dogs to be charged under this statute.

What Are the Related Crimes?

  • Penal Code 596 PC – poisoning animals, 
  • Penal Code 597 PC – animal cruelty,
  • Penal Code 597a PC - cruelly transport an animal,
  • Penal Code 597.7 PC – leave an animal unattended in a car,
  • Penal Code 399 PC – fail to control dangerous animals,
  • Penal Code 337a PC – bookmaking and wagering,
  • Health and Safety Code 122335 HS – unlawful tethering a dog.

What Are the Penalties for 597.5 PC?

Most Penal Code 597.5 PC violations are felonies punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.

Being a willing spectator at a dogfighting event or where dogfight preparations occur is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and fines up to $5000.

In addition to the penalties listed above, any conviction could result in the seizure of assets or proceeds directly connected with illegal dogfighting activities. This could include real estate, dogfighting equipment, personal property, and any profits from dogfighting. In extreme cases, the courts could seize the land itself.

What Are the Defenses for 597.5 PC?

Some strategies can be used by a California criminal defense attorney against Penal Code 597.5 dogfighting charges, depending on the case details, as discussed below.

Defenses for Dogfighting in California

Maybe we can argue that you did not know the dog was being used for fighting. Recall from the elements of the crime that it must be proven that you knew the dog was being used to engage in dogfighting to be guilty.

Maybe we can argue that you did not voluntarily participate in a dogfight but just happened to be there when it occurred. Maybe we could argue that you didn't own, keep, or train the dog. Your direct connection to dogfighting must be proven for the prosecutor to prove this case.

Most dogs used in dogfighting are unlicensed, often making proving ownership difficult. Perhaps you did not own or control the dogs.

Maybe we can argue that there was an unlawful search and seizure. For example, suppose law enforcement gathered evidence against you after an illegal search and seizure. Suppose they lacked a valid warrant or probable cause. In that case, any evidence they seized could be deemed inadmissible in court.

You can contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or through the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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