A Del Aire man has been sentenced to 16 months in state prison after he was charged with intentionally running over and killing his estranged wife's pet Chihuahua.
Security cameras caught the December 28, 2013 incident on video, which revealed the suspect taking the dog out of his trunk in an alley in Hawthorne, running over the animal and then leaving it in the alley to die. The dog, Cow Cow, was owned by his wife, who the suspect was in the process of divorcing.
The 45-year-old man was initially facing 5 years in prison in relation to charges of felony animal cruelty, animal neglect and petty theft of an animal. According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, the man accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors last week, where he pled no contest to an animal cruelty charge and faced a reduced sentence of 16 months in prison. Prosecutors then dropped additional animal cruelty charges and the petty theft charges to reduce his sentence.
As is evident in this case, prosecutors take animal cruelty cases very seriously. California has one of the harshest implementations of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect laws in the country, applying to domestic pets, farm animals, wild animals and stray animals.
California Penal Code § 597: Animal Cruelty and Neglect
California Penal Code § 597 lays forth specific penalties for crimes involving the abuse and neglect of animals. This section prohibits the malicious and intentional maiming, torture, mutilation, harming or killing of an animal. Penal Code § 597 also prohibits overworking, tormenting, depriving of food and water and otherwise neglecting animals. Each individual act of maiming, mutilating or torturing an animal may be charged as an individual offense, meaning penalties may quickly escalate if more than one animal was involved or numerous instances of alleged abuse occurred.
Animal cruelty may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California, depending on the facts of the case. If charged as a felony, a defendant may face imprisonment for 16 months, 2 years or 3 years, and/or a fine of up to $20,000. If charged as a misdemeanor, a defendant may face up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $20,000. A defendant's prior record, the extent of alleged abuse or neglect and other circumstances may influence the specific penalties enforced in an animal cruelty case.
There are other specific laws that apply to animal cruelty, abuse and neglect in California. This includes laws specifically applying to the sexual abuse of animals, leaving animals in vehicles, cockfighting, dogfighting, poisoning animals, transporting animals in a cruel or inhumane manner and improperly confining animals.
Challenging animal abuse charges can be a daunting task. This is an emotionally charged issue for many people, as animals are seen as helpless and unable to protect themselves. This is a social issue that has gained considerable media and political attention. If you find yourself charged with any type of animal cruelty or neglect, it is important to make sure there is someone ready to protect your rights. These charges can stem from misunderstandings, unintentional harm and other scenarios where a person should not risk facing years behind bars.
Lessem & Newstat represents defendants, suspects and arrestees throughout Southern California in the face of animal cruelty and a wide range of other misdemeanor and felony charges. If you were arrested or have been accused of a crime, call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our firm to see what steps can be taken to protect your interests.