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California Animal Cruelty and Neglect Laws

San Diego dog attack stories are nothing new on television news, but we don’t hear much about the common problem of animal cruelty and neglect. It carries serious penalties in the state of California – and across the country.

The language used in animal cruelty laws clearly states which kinds of conduct are deemed cruel or inhumane to animals. California’s anti-cruelty statutes cover nearly every kind of misconduct – both broadly and in detail.

Typical animal cruelty conduct involves:


It is a crime not to furnish “food, water, protection from the elements, or other care normal, usual and accepted for an animal’s health and well-being.” In California it is also illegal to leave an unattended animal tethered for more than three hours a day. (Cal. Health & Safety Code § 122335.)

A separate California animal cruelty statute also requires that confined animals be given an adequate exercise area. (Cal. Penal Code § 597t.)


Hoarding of animals in California is illegal. People who guilty of animal hoarding usually require psychological treatment for pathological collecting of animals.  Hoarders see themselves as rescuers. They are commonly charged with violating animal cruelty laws, and may spend time in jail.

Confining a Dog in an Unventilated Car

Some California cities specifically forbid confining a dog in a car without adequate ventilation. But even without a specific city statute, this could constitute cruelty under a California’s general anti-cruelty law.

California Puppy Mills

California requires pet shops to provide animals with sanitary conditions, adequate space, heating, ventilation, and humane care. Violators can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000, 90 days in jail, or both. (Cal. Penal Code § 597L.)

“Puppy mills,” large-scale dog breeding operations that churn out puppies for pet shops across the country, may also be found in violation of California anti-cruelty laws or federal laws regulating interstate transport of animals.

If you witness a blatant act of animal cruelty, it’s important that you report the incident to the authorities. You may also want to retain a San Diego dog bite lawyer for immediate consultation on how to move forward with prosecution against people and/or business accused of animal cruelty.

Steven Elia

Steven Elia

Mr. Elia has extensive litigation experience having appeared at more than 1,000 civil hearings including jury and bench trials, over 500 depositions, and hundreds of mediations. Some of his cases have made national headlines. He specializes in personal injury, business law and civil litigation in and around San Diego.