You’re walking through a parking lot on a typically hot southern California day and you spot a dog in a parked car with the windows up. You wait several minutes to see if you can spot the owner, but he or she is nowhere to be found. Then, you decide that you should break a window open so the dog doesn’t die from the heat. Could you face criminal penalties for breaking the car window to rescue the pet?
The Crime of Leaving Pets Unattended in a Car (PC 597.7)
California is unique in that it is one of only a few states that has a law specifically prohibiting leaving an animal unattended in a locked vehicle. Under California Penal
Code Section 597.7, it is against the law to leave an animal unattended in a car if doing so will endanger the health or well-being of the animal due to:
- Lack of adequate ventilation
- Lack of food or water; or
- Other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering or death to the animal
Leaving a pet unattended in a locked vehicle is punishable by up to $500 in fines. If you are charged with animal abuse as a result of leaving an animal unattended in a locked vehicle car, you could face up to 364 days in jail and $20,000 in fines.
What many people do not know is that PC 597.7 also outlines what a person can do if they see an animal locked in an unattended vehicle.
Can You Break into a Car to Save a Pet?
Under PC 597.7, you are allowed to take the reasonable steps necessary to remove an animal which could be suffering or die from being in the vehicle from the vehicle and you will not be criminally liable for any action taken in good faith.
However, the law requires that a person attempting to rescue an animal from a vehicle follow certain requirements. Before breaking a window, you must:
- Determine the vehicle is locked and there is no reasonable way to otherwise remove the animal from the car in order to save the animal from suffering or death
- Contact local law enforcement, the fire department, animal control or 911 prior to breaking into the vehicle
- Only use the amount of force necessary to remove the animal from the vehicle, and
- Stay with the animal in a safe location near the vehicle until an official responder arrives
Failure to follow the specific requirements of PC 597.7 could result in you being charged with tampering with a vehicle under California Vehicle Code Section 10852. This misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one have been accused of animal abuse or tampering with a vehicle, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing serious criminal charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.