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California Dogfighting Laws Penal Code 597.5 PC

By Spodek Law Group | July 2, 2021
Los Angeles Dog Fighting Lawyers

California legislators take dogfighting seriously.  It’s importance is evident in the fact that they chose to make it a separate crime, instead simply dealing with it under existing animal cruelty laws. Penal Code 597.5 PC, California’s dogfighting law, outlines criminal penalties for any of the following offenses:

  1. If you own , possess , keep or train  any dog, with the intent that it will engage in an exhibition of fighting with another dog;
  2. If you cause any dog to fight with another dog, or cause any dogs to injure each other, for amusement or gain;
  3. If you permit either of the above two acts to be done on any premises under your control, or aid and abet either of those two acts; or
  4. If you are knowingly and intentionally present at a dog fight or a place where preparations are being made for an organized dog fight.

Perhaps you recall the famous case of dogfighting involving NFL star Michael Vick.

Mr. Vick was charged with dogfighting as a federal offense since his operation crossed state lines. He pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 23 months in a federal prison.


Penalties for a conviction on Dogfighting Charges

Persons who are spectators at dog fights or are knowingly present at a location where preparations are being made for a dog fight, you can be charged with PC 597.5 dogfighting as a California misdemeanor. Penalties for misdemeanor dogfighting are up to a year in the county jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

All other violations of California’s dogfighting law are felonies offenses.  A felony dogfighting conviction carries sixteen months, two years or three years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $50,000.


Legal defenses to Dogfighting charges

Often, defendants in dogfighting cases are caught unawares when they find out how seriously the state of California takes this offense.

Some of the most common effective defenses include showing that the police who made the arrest violated the search and seizure laws, no proof of ownership of the dog(s) was found  and/or the defendant lacked criminal intent.


In this article, the California criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group will teach you:

  1. Dogfighting in California, Legally Defined
  2. The Penalties connected to Penal Code 597.5 PC Dogfighting
  3. The Best Legal Defenses to California Dogfighting Charges
  4. Offenses Related to PC 597.5 Dogfighting

If, after reading this article, you still have questions, we invite you to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group.


Dogfighting in California, Legally Defined

The legal definition of dogfighting in California is complex. Several distinct behaviors that can lead to charges are enshrined in California Penal Code 597.5 PC.


Owning, possessing, keeping or training a dog for dogfighting is a primary violation.   A charge can stick under this section of California’s dogfighting law even if the dog never actually participates in dog fights. What matters is that you intend for it to engage in fighting.

Furthermore, you don’t have to actually own the dog(s) in question to get convicted on this charge.


Causing any dog to fight with another dog, or causing any dogs to injure each other for amusement or gain is a violation of the dogfighting statute.


Permitting or aiding and abetting any of the aforementioned acts is also a violation.  As long as you had knowledge of the perpetrator’s unlawful purpose and the intent or purpose of committing or encouraging or facilitating the crime, you have violated this law.

You can be charged with dogfighting for simply allowing someone else use a space that you own or control for dogfighting purposes.


If you are a spectator at, or present at preparations for, a dog fight, you are guilty of this crime.

Finally, you can be guilty of dogfighting if you are knowingly and intentionally present at a dog fight, or you’re knowingly present as a spectator at any place where preparations are being made for a dog fight, with the intentions of being present at the fight.


The Penalties connected to Penal Code 597.5 PC Dogfighting

The consequences for violating California’s dogfighting law are different in each case depending on the form of the crime of dogfighting with which you are charged.


Misdemeanor dogfighting charges

The crime of dogfighting is a misdemeanor in cases when you are charged for being a spectator at a dog fight, or being present at a place where preparations were being made for a dog fight.  Conviction carries summary probation, up to a year in county jail,  and/or up to $5,000 in fines.


The penalties you would face for felony dogfighting are felony (formal) probation, sixteen months, two years or three years in county jail under California’s realignment program, and/or a fine of up to  $50,000.


The Penalty of Asset forfeiture

California law also imposes a penalty of asset forfeiture for persons convicted of dogfighting.  The prosecutor can initiate a proceeding to seize any property that you acquired through the crime of dogfighting.  You could lose personal property, real estate, profits and proceeds, and any equipment acquired or used in the course of dogfighting.


The Best Legal Defenses to California Dogfighting Charges

Dogfighting is a serious sport and a legitimate leisure activity grounded in tradition for those who are a part of it. As such, California’s dogfighting laws are written broadly so that persons can face charges for this offense even if they were only in the vicinity of, or peripherally involved in, a dog fight.

Should you find yourself facing dogfighting charges, here are the best legal defenses to help you get out of hot water.


California search and seizure laws violated by police

By and large, dogfighting cases are heavily reliant upon arrests made and evidence acquired at the scene of a dog fight.  In some cases, the police may enter the site of a dog fight without a California search warrant, enter the site of a dog fight with an invalid warrant and/or carry out a search outside the area covered by a warrant.

With any of these factors, any evidence against you acquired at the scene is rendered inadmissible and the charges could get dismissed.


No proof of ownership of the dogs involved as a defense

The reality is that most dogs that participate in dog fights are not licensed.  Because of this fact, it can be difficult for the prosecution to demonstrate that you were the individual who owned, possessed, kept or trained the dog for dogfighting purposes.


Offenses Related to PC 597.5 Dogfighting

Common related offenses to California dogfighting are:

  • animal cruelty CALIFORNIA PC 597
  • leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle CALIFORNIA PC 597.7
  • involuntary manslaughter CALIFORNIA PC 192(b)
  • bookmaking/pool-selling/wagering CALIFORNIA PC 337a
  • failing to control a dangerous animal CALIFORNIA PC 399
  • creating a public nuisance CALIFORNIA PC 372 and 373a
  • according to Health & Safety Code 122335 HS, “unlawful tethering of a dog” is a crime. Under this law, it is a crime to tie a dog to a stationary object under most circumstances.

To get your questions about the California crime of dogfighting under Penal Code 597.5 PC answered, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, reach out to the criminal defense lawyers at Spodek Law Group.

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