Top 10 California Pet Laws You Should Know

California is home to millions of pets and pet owners, and there are a number of laws in place to protect both animals and people. From requirements for licensing and vaccinations to restrictions on breeding and sale, these pet laws aim to promote the well-being and safety of pets in the state. Here we will explore some of the key pet laws in California and how they impact pet owners. 

CA Penal Code 597b – Fighting animals or cockfighting; prohibition; penalties; aiding and abetting

What the law states:
  "This statute forbids anyone from causing a fight between any animal or creature for amusement or gain, or allowing an animal fight to take place on their premises. It's a misdemeanor for anyone to be present at an animal fight."

Causing or encouraging fights between animals is a form of animal cruelty. These types of fights are often organized for the purpose of gambling or entertainment, and they almost always result in serious injury or death for the animals involved. Additionally, forcing animals to fight can cause them to suffer from not only physical but also psychological trauma that many animals never recover from. Moreover, more often than not, these animals are never properly cared for and never receive proper veterinary treatment. They also are often forced to live in harsh living conditions and subjected to cruel practices in the hopes that the animal will become more aggressive and more likely to win fights. 

Animal fighting is a violation of the law not only in California, but in many countries around the world and can result in criminal charges and fines. There are also various animal welfare organizations that work to prevent and stop animal fighting. Moreover, not only is it criminal to organize or encourage fights between animals in California, but it is also illegal to be present at an organized animal fight for the purpose of amusement or gain.

Animal fighting is harmful to the animals forced to be involved, as well as the surrounding communities, since organized animal fighting often tends to go hand in hand with other criminal activities like illegal gambling, violence, and illegal drug use. Animal fighting is outlawed in the state of California, but unfortunately, despite being illegal, it does still happen. Thankfully, many animal welfare organizations, individuals, and government entities are working to stop this from happening and save the animals involved. 

CA Penal Code 597 – Crimes against animals – Felony or Misdemeanor

What the law states:
"Anyone who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment or by a fine of no greater than $20,000, or by both the fine and imprisonment." 

In most jurisdictions, it is a crime to intentionally hurt a living animal. The specific charge that is filed for such an offense, however, can vary depending on the severity of the harm caused to the animal and the circumstances of the case. In general, the intentional harming of an animal can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges are generally less serious than felonies and can carry penalties such as fines, probation, and up to one year in jail. Felony charges, on the other hand, are more serious and can carry longer prison sentences and larger fines.

There are a number of factors that can influence whether an act of intentionally harming an animal is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, the degree and severity of the harm caused to the animal, the number of animals involved, the defendant's prior criminal history, and the jurisdiction's specific laws and policies can all play a role in determining the severity of the charge. 

If a person intentionally harms an animal, they are more likely to be charged with a felony if the animal is severely injured or killed, if they have a history of animal cruelty, or if the offense is part of a known pattern of abuse. On the other hand, if the animal is not seriously harmed and the defendant has no prior history of animal cruelty, the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor instead. Laws regarding animal cruelty do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within California, so the specific charge and penalties for intentionally hurting a living animal can vary depending on where the offense took place. 

CA Penal Code 597f – Permitting animals to go without care; Veterinary care for injured cats and dogs

What the law states:
"Every owner of any animal, who permits the animal to be without proper care and attention, shall, on conviction, be deemed guilty or a misdemeanor."

In California, it is a misdemeanor to neglect or fail to provide proper care for an animal in your possession or control. This includes providing adequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Neglecting an animal can also include failing to protect an animal from extreme weather conditions or failing to promptly seek medical attention when the animal is sick or injured. Other examples include failing to provide the animal with food, shelter, or water, allowing the animal to roam freely or without proper restraints like fencing, as well as abandoning the animal. 

If an individual is found guilty of animal neglect in California, that person will likely face fines, imprisonment, and the possibility of having their animals taken away from them. 

CA Penal Code 597 z – Sale of dogs under 8 weeks of age

What the law states:
  "It is a crime for any person to sell one or more dogs under eight weeks of age, unless, prior to any physical transfer of the dog or dogs from the seller to purchaser, the dog or dogs are approved for sale, as evidenced by written documentation from a veterinarian licensed to practice in California."

This law was enacted to protect the health and well-being of pets and to prevent the sale of sick or undernourished animals to unknowing consumers. Violations can result in fines and other penalties. Penal code 597 z is enforced by local animal control agencies, which have the authority to inspect pet stores and other establishments that sell animals and to take action against any that violate the law. This law applies to all types of animals, including cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and other common household pets. It is intended to ensure that animals are treated humanely and to protect the public from purchasing unhealthy or poorly socialized animals. 

In forbidding the sale of pets under the age of eight weeks in retail stores, California is also helping to decrease the number of puppy mills in the state. Unfortunately, puppy mills will often sell puppies to their new homes or to retailers before they are old enough to be away from their mothers. In the eyes of the puppy mill, the sooner they can see the puppies, the sooner they can stop providing care, and the sooner they can make a profit. 

West's Ann. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 122350 - 122361 Pet Store Animal Care Act


What the law states:
  "Effective January 1, 2019, states that a pet store operator shall not sell a live dog, cat, or rabbit in a pet store unless the animal was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animal shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group that is in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter. Violation is a civil penalty with a fine of up to $500."

In 2019, California enacted a law mandating that any retailer or pet store operator can only sell a live animal like a dog, cat, or rabbit if the animal was obtained from a shelter, rescue, or humane society. This was a huge move forward in the right direction for California as it ensures that puppy mills aren't allowed to mass produce puppies and sell them to pet stores.

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding facilities that prioritize profit over the well-being of the dogs. The conditions in puppy mills are often overcrowded and unsanitary, and the dogs are often neglected and not given proper medical care. Puppies born in puppy mills are more likely to have health and behavioral problems, and the mothers of these puppies are often kept in constant confinement and forced to produce litter after litter of puppies. The cruelty and neglect that occurs in puppy mills is a major problem, and it is important to support animal welfare organizations and adopt pets from shelters or responsible breeders instead of purchasing puppies from puppy mills.

Californians can still privately purchase pets from breeders, but more and more folks are leaning towards adopting from ethical and responsible breeders. Puppy mill puppies are often kept in deplorable conditions and often poorly bred, resulting in a lifetime of potential suffering from genetic disorders, behavioral issues, and diseases. If a pet store is found to have obtained an animal from anywhere other than a shelter, rescue, or humane society, they could face a civil penalty with a fine of $500. 

CA Penal Code 597.7 – Animals in unattended motor vehicles

What the law states:
  "No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability or death to the animal.

A first conviction for violation is punishable by a fine not exceeding $100 per animal. If the animal suffers great bodily injury, a violation of this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by both a fine and imprisonment. Penalty enhancements are provided for subsequent convictions."

It is illegal in California to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle if doing so places the animal in danger. Specifically, California Penal Code Section 597.7 makes it a crime to leave an animal in a parked vehicle in a way that endangers the animal's health or well-being. This includes leaving an animal in a parked vehicle on a hot day, as well as in cold weather or other dangerous conditions.

If you see an animal alone in a parked vehicle that appears to be in danger or in distress, you should try to locate the owner of the vehicle or the animal. If you are unable to do so, or if the animal appears to be in imminent danger, you should call local law enforcement or animal control to report the situation. They will be able to assess the situation and give you guidance on taking the appropriate action, which may include either removing the animal from the vehicle yourself or waiting until help arrives. 

However, another section of this same ruling determines that if the animal is in imminent danger, good samaritans can forcibly enter the vehicle, provided that a few conditions are met. One of the conditions is, of course, calling law enforcement. They can help determine whether it is necessary or if it would be more appropriate to wait for law enforcement. But if the person has a reasonable belief that the animal's life is in immediate danger, they can work to get the animal out of the vehicle in order to give aid.  

West's Ann. Cal. Fam. Code § 6320 - 6327 - inclusion of animals domestic violence


What the law states:
  "On a showing of good cause, the court may include in a protective order a grant to the petitioner of the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence or household of either the petitioner or the respondent."

In California, a protective order is a legal document that is issued by a court to protect someone who has been threatened, harassed, or harmed by another individual. Under California law, a protective order may allow the person who is seeking protection to take possession of any animals in the household with the help of law enforcement. This provision is included to ensure that the petitioner is able to take care of any pets they may have. It also helps to prevent the person who is threatening or harassing the petitioner from using the pets as a means of control or intimidation. This can be particularly important in cases of domestic violence, where the respondent may have threatened or harmed the petitioner's pets in the past, and there is a real risk of the animal being in danger again. By granting the petitioner possession of any animals in the household, the hope is that the petitioner and their pets will be safe from further harm.

West's Ann. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114259.5 restaurant and live animal

What the law states:
  "Live animals may be allowed in any of the following situations if the contamination of food, clean equipment, utensils, linens, and unwrapped single-use articles cannot result: The owner of the food facility elects to allow pet dogs in its outdoor dining area, a separate outdoor entrance is present where pet dogs enter without going through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area, and pet dogs are not allowed on chairs, benches, seats, or other fixtures, food, and water provided to pet dogs shall only be in single-use disposable containers, and the pet dog is on a leash or confined in a pet carrier and is under the control of the pet dog owner."

In California, it is generally allowed for dogs to be present in outdoor dining areas of restaurants as long as the restaurant permits it. However, the dog must be kept on a leash and under the control of the owner at all times. The dog is not allowed to sit on chairs or tables and must be kept away from food service areas. It is the responsibility of the owner to clean up any messes that the dog may make.

It is important to note that these rules may vary from city to city within California. Additionally, the rules may be different for other types of animals, such as cats, birds, or exotic pets. It is always a good idea to check with the specific restaurant and local ordinances before bringing an animal to an outdoor dining area. 

West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 600.2 Service Animals


What the law states:
  "It is unlawful for any person to permit any dog he or she owns or controls to injure or kill any service dog while the service dog is in the discharge of its duties. A violation is an infraction punishable by a fine if the injury is caused by the person's failure to exercise ordinary care. A violation is a misdemeanor if the injury is caused by reckless disregard in the exercise of control over his or her dog. A violation, in this case, shall be punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Upon conviction, the defendant shall make restitution, including veterinary bills and replacement costs."

Under California law, it is a crime for a dog to harm a service animal. Specifically, California Penal Code Section 365.7 states that it is a misdemeanor to permit a dog to cause injury to, or to kill, a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog while the dog is working with a disabled person. If convicted, a person could face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000

This law applies if the owner of the animal acting as the aggressor doesn't exercise normal standards of care for the dog, such as keeping it on a leash and away from the service dog. It also applies if the owner is blatantly or recklessly disregarding their responsibilities of controlling their animal and a service dog is attacked by that animal. And, of course, this law applies if an owner intentionally provokes their dog into attacking a service dog.  It is also important to note that under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for any person to intentionally interfere with the use of a service animal in any way. As mentioned, this includes intentionally allowing a dog to attack or harass a service animal.

West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 487e, 487f, 487g, 491 petty theft and grand theft


What the law states:
  "These provisions of the California Penal Code deal with stealing dogs and other animals. A person who feloniously steals, takes, or carries away a dog of another where the dog's value exceeds $950 is guilty of grand theft. If the value of the dog is less than $950, it is petty theft. If a person steals or maliciously takes an animal of another for purposes of sale, medical research, slaughter, or other commercial use (or does so by fraud or false representation), he or she commits a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 1 year or in the state prison."

In California, the theft of a pet is considered a theft of personal property and is punishable under the state's theft laws. If the value of the stolen pet is believed to be under $950, the crime is considered petty theft. The punishment for this is up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the value of the pet is estimated to be $950 or more, the crime is considered grand theft. The punishment for this is up to 3 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, if a person steals a guide dog or service animal, they can be charged with a separate crime of theft of a guide or service animal, which is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The value of a pet is generally determined by its market value or replacement cost rather than its sentimental value to the owner. As we know, our pets are priceless!


California has a wide range of laws in place to protect the interests and well-being of pets and various animals. These laws cover a variety of issues, including restrictions on the sale of animals, theft of beloved pets, crimes against animals, and laws regarding the rights and treatment of service animals. By knowing and following these laws, pet owners can help to create a safe and healthy environment for their animals and contribute to the overall well-being of the pet population in California.