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Owning Attack Dogs Law & Defense

California Penal Code 399.5(a)

The laws on the crime of owning attack dogs is found at California Penal Code section 399.5(a).

The law of PC 399.5(a)

Per PC 399.5(a), Any person owning or having custody or control of a dog trained to fight, attack, or kill is guilty of owing attack dogs.

A person owning a dog must excise ordinary care to assure that the dog does not bite another human being. If the defendant knows that on at least two separate occasions his or her dog has bitten another person, or on one occasion, bites another person and causes substantial physical injury to another person, the owner is guilty of owning an attack dog (PC 399.5(a)).

PC 399.5(a) does not apply to trespassers, or people who provoked the dog, or contributed to his or her own injuries, or to dogs acting in military or law enforcement capacity.

Provocation includes, but is not limited to, situations where a dog held on a leash by its owner or custodian reacts in a protective manner to a person or person who approach the owner or custodian in a threatening manner. 

PC 399.5(d) does not apply to veterninarian or an on-duty animal control officers while in the performance of his or her duties.

Punishment & Sentence for PC 399.5(a)

The crime of owning an attack dog is classified as a wobbler, which means it may be filed either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Whether or not the district attorney files felony or misdemeanor PC 399.5(a) charges depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any.

When owning an attack dog is charged as a felony under PC 399.5(a), the defendant, if convicted, may face up to a maximum of four (4) years in prison; when the crime of owning an attack dog is charged as a misdemeanor under PC 399.5(a) the defendant may face up to a maximum of one (1) year in the county jail.

PC 399.5(a) is subject to the provisions of PC 1170(h), which means that any jail or prison sentence may be suspended or split (half jail time, half work release). Probation, with or without a jail sentence, is also available for some defendants in PC 399.5(a) cases.

The crime of owning an attack dog is not considered a "strike" under California Three Strikes Law. If found guilty of PC 399.5(a), the defendant is entitled to fifty percent (50%) good time credit, which means that if the defendant is committed to jail or prison, he or she will only have to serve half of the jail commitment if he or she is on good behavior while in jail or prison. 

PC 399.5(a) is not considered a serious or violent crime as those terms are defined under California law. Therefore, if convicted, the defendant may be entitled to early release on parole after serving the full term of the primary offense pursuant to Prop 57.

In addition to any jail or prison commitment, if found guilty of owning an attack dog charged under PC 399.5(a), the defendant could suffer some or all of the following penalties: Monetary fines up to $10,000 (PC 399.5(a)), restitution, civil lawsuits from victims of dog bites, adverse immigration consequences (for non-U.S. citizens), loss of professional or occupational license, civil forfeitures (government seizing property that was used to support attack dogs or animals), harsh probation terms, and more.

Defense To Owning Attack Dogs PC 399.5(a)

There are many defenses that might apply to criminal charges in general. With PC 399.5(a) charges the most common defenses include:

  • insufficient evidence
  • provocation of leashed dog by victim
  • trespass to land by victim where dog attacked
  • defendant's lack of knowledge of the dog's vicious tendencies to attack victim
  • self-defense
  • defense of others
  • mistake of fact
  • statute of limitations
  • coerced confessions
  • police misconduct and more. 

If you are charged with owning an attack dog, or PC 399.5, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are available 24/7 to answer all of your questions. Call today!


Related Crimes to Owning Attack Dogs:

  • PC 399(a) Allow Vicious Animal At large Causing Death
  • PC 399(b) Allow Vicious Animal At Large Causing Injury
  • PC 597.5(a) Train Attack Dog / Attend a Dog Fight
  • PC 597.5(b) Knowingly Attend a Dog Fight

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Upldate 11/2/2016/

California Owning Attack Dogs Law & Defense / Penal Code 399.5(a)

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