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Name: People v. Riazati
Case #: D056670
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/11/2011

Penal Code section 597, subdivision (b) (animal neglect) requires a finding that defendant committed a grossly negligent act or omission which created a high risk of death or great bodily injury to an animal. A jury convicted appellant of two counts of felony animal neglect and four counts of misdemeanor animal neglect (Pen. Code, sec. 597, subd. (b)). According to the evidence presented, appellant accumulated more than 90 animals at his residence, including rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, chickens, and dogs. The animals were inadequately housed and were not provided sufficient clean water or food. On appeal, appellant contended that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that to prove the crime, the People must show (1) appellant had custody or responsibility for the animals; (2) he committed a grossly negligent act or omission; and (3) the act or omission created a high risk of death or great bodily injury to the animal. As to the definition of gross negligence, the court gave the CALCRIM No. 970 instruction. In particular, appellant challenged the language including “great bodily injury,” and the gross negligence instruction. The appellate court agreed with the People that appellant was barred from challenging the instructions under the doctrine of invited error, as he had requested them and his requests were a deliberate tactical choice. (People v. Perez (1979) 23 Cal.3d 545.) Even if appellant was not estopped from claiming error, the instructions were a correct statement of the law. Section 597, subdivision (b) was broadly written to encompass grossly negligent conduct that deprives any cared-for animal of necessary sustenance and shelter. Because great bodily injury, as a practical matter, is often the precursor to death, an interpretation of section 597, subdivision (b) to permit imposition of criminal liability for grossly negligent conduct that exposes an animal to the risk of great bodily injury is in keeping with the Legislative intent to protect animals from grossly negligent conduct that exposes them to death.