California Penal Code Section 597t - Court Cases - Animal Legal Defense Fund V. Mendes

Animal Legal Defense Fund V. Mendes

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued Victor L. Mendes for confining calves in veal crates, which ALDF considered to be a violation of Pen. Code 597t. In Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Mendes, 160 Cal. App. 4th 136 (2008), the court ruled that ALDF had no private right to enforce 597t through civil action. Since 597t is a criminal law, it may only be enforced by a public prosecutor, or by a private corporation which meets particular standards. The court did not address whether the confinement of calves in veal crates violates 597t.

There are two ways in which private entities may initiate legal action against persons who violate anticruelty criminal laws. One way is through Section 10400 corporations. According to Corporations Code section 10400, a corporation may be formed for the purpose of preventing cruelty to animals, and may pursue legal action against anyone for violating anti-cruelty laws. The articles of incorporation for these corporations are to be filed with the Secretary of State and endorsed by the Department of Justice or by a judge of the superior court of the county in which the principal office of the corporation is located. Only these corporations may apply for appointment of humane officers whose duty it is to enforce laws for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Private persons and corporations who are not incorporated under Corp. Code section 10400 may initiate legal action against persons who violate anticruelty criminal laws by making a complaint under oath to a magistrate authorized to issue warrants in criminal cases. A magistrate who receives a complaint alleging ongoing or potential animal abuse in a particular location must issue a warrant to a sheriff, police officer, or officer of a Section 10400 corporation, authorizing him or her to enter and search the building mentioned in the complaint and to arrest any person there who is violating, or intending to violate, anticruelty laws.

The ALDF is not a Section 10400 corporation. Its articles of incorporation were not endorsed by the Department of Justice or by a judge of any superior court for the purpose of giving it quasi-governmental powers described in Section 10400. Since it is not a Section 10400 corporation, it does not have a humane officer who is authorized to pursue legal action against violators of anticruelty criminal laws. The ALDF did not make a complaint before a magistrate authorized to issue warrants. Because this case is not initiated by a Section 10400 corporation, or by a complaint made before a magistrate, it does not fall under any of the methods of enforcement provided by law.

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