Theft of Dogs Expanded to Include ''Companion Animal'' as Defined
Under California laws, a dog is considered personal property, and just like stealing any personal property is a crime, it is also a crime in California to steal a dog or cat.
Stealing a dog whose value exceeds $950 is grand theft while if you steal a dog whose value is below $950, you will be charged with petty theft.
AB 1290 amends the laws on the theft of dogs to include companion animals.
- Stealing a companion animal worth more than $950 in value is a grand theft offense.
- Stealing a companion animal whose value is less than $950 is a petty theft crime
The law defines a companion animal as an animal kept as a pet, for service, protection, emotional support, or company (companionship).
Feral animals aren't considered companion animals, and their theft is unprotected under this provision.
Below are the details of the amendments.Section 491: Definition of Companion Animal
PC 491 defines companion animals as personal property, whose value is determined in the same way as other property.
A companion animal is any animal that a person keeps for:
- Emotional support
The law doesn't consider feral cats as companion animals.
The California Food and Agricultural Code 31752.5 defines feral cats as follows:
"a cat without owner identification of any kind whose usual and consistent temperament is extreme fear and resistance to contact with people. A feral cat is totally unsocialized to people."Section 487e: Grand Theft of a Companion Animal
Under PC 487e, stealing, taking, or carrying away a companion animal worth more than $950 is a grand theft offense.
If convicted of grand theft, your punishment may be:
- A prison term of up to three years in a state prison
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Imprisonment for three years in state prison and up to $5,000 in fines
Grand theft in California can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor offense under Section 487. Therefore, depending on the circumstances of your case, the prosecutor might charge you with a misdemeanor, which is a lesser charge punishable by one year in county jail.
You may still have to pay up to $5,000 in fines even when charged with a misdemeanor.More about Grand Theft
To be guilty of grand theft under CPC 487(a)-(d), the items you have stolen or taken should include any of the following:
- Property worth more than $950
- A firearm
- An automobile
- Fish from a fishery or research operation
AB 1290 expands the scope of PC 487 to include PC 487 (e) and 487 (f), making the theft of any animal considered a companion animal a crime in California.
Additionally, before you are charged with grand theft, the prosecutor must prove intent and worth.
- Intent means that you meant to deny to a person ownership or use of their property.
- Worth refers to the value of the items stolen
If you steal, take, or carry away a companion animal whose value is less than $950, you have committed the crime of petty theft.
The punishment for petty theft may be:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Imprisonment for six months in county jail plus a fine of up to $1,000