Animal Abuse

Report Animal Cruelty†

What you can do to stop animal cruelty, Because animals cannot speak for themselves, it’s up to YOU to speak for them and report animal abuse that you witness or suspect. Animal cruelty is illegal in every state (and a felony in 46). If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty, the responding agency is required to investigate.

If you want to help animals in your community, familiarize yourself with your state’s laws, recognize the signs of abuse and be willing to report it.

 How to Recognize Cruelty

While direct violence is the most obvious form of animal cruelty, animal neglect is by far the most common type of abuse to which animal control officers respond.

Signs of neglect: A shocking number of animals die from neglect every year, right under the noses of the entire community. If you see an animal in distress don’t assume that someone else will take care of the situation; take action! Pay particular attention to:

  • Chained dogs are most likely to die from starvation, dehydration or hypothermia, since their confinement renders them especially vulnerable and helpless.
  • Animals without shelter in extreme heat or cold.
  • Clearly emaciated animals: clearly visible bones and lethargy can be a sign of an untreated, life-threatening medical condition or imminent starvation.
  • Obvious, untreated wounds or other medical conditions: animals who are limping or otherwise demonstrating distress, and animals with multiple patches of missing fur and open sores need treatment.
  • Too many animals living on one property. This can be a sign of animal hoarding.
  • Dogs or cats inside abandoned homes. Reports of companion animals abandoned and left to die inside vacant buildings or apartment units are startlingly common. If you notice a neighbor has moved or has stopped coming around to a residence where you animals live, be extra vigilant.

Some dogs bark and whine to express their anxiety when they are left alone, but a dog who is howling or barking for more than a day sending out a clear signal that he’s not being attended to. He may be injured or he may be abandoned. Try to find out if someone is at the residence, and if not, ask the authorities to investigate. If the neglect is ongoing or prolonged, it’s often helpful to document it. You’ll be better able to make your case and persuade authorities to take action if you if you’ve been able to take daily notes and photographs of the situation. Obvious violence No reasonable, conscientious person would ignore a child being beaten, hit or kicked. Neither should anyone turn a blind eye to animal abuse!

  • If you witness overt violence against an animal or suspect it, speak up! If you don’t feel comfortable directly intervening in a situation, quickly call the authorities. (If you don’t have the appropriate number in your cell phone, dial 911.)
  • Knowing that s/he is being watched might startle the abuser into stopping the immediate act of violence, but ultimately, most cases are best left to law enforcement. It is especially important to involve law enforcement when violence is involved because the abuse is likely to be part of an ongoing pattern of violence that may include both animals and people. Don’t delay; time is of the essence!

How to report animal cruelty

  • Make the call: Most large municipalities have a local animal control department, animal shelter or humane society. Do an online search to identify the agency in your area, and program the number into your cell phone so you are prepared.

    If you’re traveling or living in a more rural area or community without an animal control agency, call the local police department (dial 911 to be most quickly connected) to report suspected animal abuse.

  • Document the details: When you make the call, tell the officer as many details of the situation as you can—i.e., the location, date and time, and descriptions of the people and animals involved. Video and photographic documentation (even a cell phone photo) can help bolster your case. It’s also useful to give names of others who may have witnessed the incident.
  • Prepare to testify: While you may remain anonymous, the case will be much stronger if you are willing to identify yourself and testify to what you witnessed. Since animals cannot talk, a human witness is crucial for building a strong, prosecutable case.


American Humane Association


resource: The Humane Society of the United States