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Maureen, Moderator
Category: Criminal Law
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GA-mk , A few months ago I came across somebody who was no

Customer Question

Hi, A few months ago I came across somebody who was no longer able to keep his dog. He needed to take his dog to a shelter, but we all knew that a regular shelter would put the dog down. We went online and came across a no-kill shelter in the city of Westminster
but when we called they told us that they only take dogs found in the city of Westminster or from owners in Westminster. With that being said, we decided that we would just take the dog there and say we found the dog in Westminster. The dog's owner was so
upset about not being able to keep his dog that he couldn't take the dog so I had to do it. Anyways, a couple days later the no-kill shelter found out that the dog was not really stray from Westminster so they contacted me and asked me to come in. I told them
the truth and that I was not able to come in there. I gave them contact information for the dog's actual owner. Now, months down the road I received this notice in the mail (see attached photo) I was never the owner of this dog, I never resisted any of the
animal officers when I was at their facility. I understand that not being truthful was the wrong thing to do, but I wanted this dog to have a chance at being adopted from a no-kill shelter rather than going to a shelter where he would be put down. Please advise
me on what to do and what the consequences of this might be.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Just to add: when they called and asked me to come back in, they wanted me to come in to fill out relinquishment forms. I told them I wasn't able to come and to contact the person who actually owned the dog.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
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Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the opportunity to assist you.
Here is the text of the code sections you're charged under:
"597s.(a) Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty
of a misdemeanor."
"148.(a)(1) Every person who willfully resists, delays, or
obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical
technician ... shall be punished by a fine not exceeding
one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail
not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment."
As for the animal abandonment charge, I have a difficult time believing you'd be found guilty of this. Yes, you lied about where the dog came from in order to get the dog into the shelter, and I suppose that's where the prosecutor will claim the "willful" criminal act came from. But you DID have the lawful authority to have control over the dog's disposition, for lack of a better term, at the time you dropped the dog off. That doesn't sound like "abandonment" to me.
I think your best defense here is to explain the circumstances (which you already did) and show the judge or jury that you did not intend to do anything "criminal" or "wrong," just to help out your neighbor and this dog.
As for obstruction, you have a more difficult time here. An "officer" for purposes of this code section includes animal control officers. There is case law in CA that suggests that lying to an officer is a form of obstruction of justice. (I agree that you neither "delayed" or "resisted.")
If the judge or jury believes you lied to the animal control officer about the particulars of the dog's status in order to get the dog into the shelter, you may very well be found guilty of obstruction. (It's a safe assumption that the judge or jury WILL believe you lied since you told the officers two stories which are mutually exclusive.)
When you go to your arraignment on 8/20, I would plead not guilty. If you want to hire an attorney now, you certainly can. If you cannot afford an attorney, ask the judge to appoint one for you when you go to court in August. If you qualify for court-appointed services, the judge will assign an attorney to help you. Talk to the attorney, discuss the case, and see what the best resolution is you can come up with.
I hope my response has been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. I'll get back to you as quickly as I can, although I may not be online at the moment you respond.
Otherwise, I hope you will rate my answer positively as that is the ONLY way I receive credit for my work, and doing so will NOT cost you an additional fee.
Best wishes to you,
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello again,
I'm writing to follow up on your question. I see you recently viewed my answer, but you didn't issue a rating. If you need clarification about my answer, please ask. Otherwise, please let me know what else I can do, if anything, to earn a positive rating from you.
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