What is the penalty for dog poisoning? Ask the lawyer – San Bernardino Sun

Q: We have a neighbor who has serious issues and has been reported to the police by others. Recently, we discovered our dog was very ill. The vet determined it was poison and we believe the poison can be traced to our neighbor. Can criminal charges be brought?

P.H., Fountain Valley

A: California Penal Code Section 596 provides: Every person who, without the consent of the owner, willfully administers poison to any animal, the property of another or exposes any poisonous substance, with the intent that the same shall be taken or swallowed by any such animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by up to six months in jail. Penal Code §597(a) also proscribes animal cruelty and makes it a crime to intentionally maim, mutilate, torture, wound or kill a living animal. Violation of §597(a) can result in three years in a state prison, a fine of up to $20,000 or both. Bottom line, gather your evidence, then sit down and talk things out with law enforcement.

Q: Our dog is a family member and we adore her. Some college kids played a prank that caused her a serious leg injury. The vet bills are not modest. My husband, kids and I see this and are very emotional about it. Can we sue for distress damages?

F.G., Mar Vista

A: Traditionally, dogs have been treated by the law as chattel, that is, personal property. You could recover the diminution in value of the “property,” but not the suffering you experience. That limitation now gradually seems to be changing. In divorce cases, for example, dogs are often dealt with as members of the family; custody and visitation issues come into play. And some cases over the past several years have approved emotional distress damages when a third party willfully harms your dog.

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