November 4, 2013
Report Animal Cruelty
What you can do to help stop animal abuse
Every state has laws prohibiting animal cruelty, and 49 of them contain felony provisions. (South Dakota is the only hold-out.)
However, a law is only as good as its enforcement, and that's why animals rely on you to protect them by reporting animal abuse.
This page will get you started by opening your eyes to the signs of cruelty and empowering you to do something to stop it.
Animal neglect comprises the vast majority of cruelty cases to which animal control officers respond. Animal neglect can take on many forms, including:
- Hoarding: A person who keeps far more animals than they can properly care for is a hoarder.
- Lack of veterinary care: Untreated wounds are a red flag that demand immediate attention; emaciation, scabs, and hair loss can also be a sign of untreated, underlying diseases.
- Inadequate shelter, especially in extreme heat or cold temperatures, can be deadly to pets.
- Chained dogs who are tethered continuously suffer tremendously, both from social isolation and exposure to predators and the elements.
- Abandonment: A startling number of animals die every year when people move out of their residences and simply leave the animals behind. Sometimes, an abandoned dog's barking or cat's howling can alert the neighbors, but it's wise to keep an eye on a recently vacated home, especially if the former residents moved suddenly.
It can be very upsetting to see someone beating or physically attacking an animal, but it's important not to turn away.
Especially when violence is concerned, it's crucial to involve law enforcement, because violence toward animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that includes people as well as animals.
Time is of the essence—don't delay. Call the authorities immediately.
Make the call
If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty, the responding agency is required to investigate. Dialing 911 is the quickest route to get a response, but it is also useful to have the proper animal welfare agency's number on hand.
Be prepared: Do an online search to identify the agency—your local animal control department, animal shelter or humane society—in your area, and program the number into your cell phone.
If you're traveling or live in a community without an animal welfare agency, call the local police department (or 911) to report suspected animal abuse.
If your area lacks the proper animal welfare agency, and your local authorities are not equipped to deal with animal cruelty cases, you can also email or call The HSUS and ask to speak with one of our experts about the suspected abuse.
You can also go one step further and learn how to start up a local animal welfare agency if you live in an underserved community.
As with any crime, documenting the details are essential to making the case and stopping the animal abuser. The responding agency will need to know details like date, time, and location of the alleged crime, as well as physical descriptions of all individuals (people and animals) involved.
Cell phone photos and videos have proven excellent tools in cementing criminal cases against animal abusers.
Some animal welfare agencies have the power to obtain and serve warrants; other agencies work closely with local police who execute the search warrant on their behalf.
In either case, an officer will look into the complaint to see if animal cruelty laws have been violated.
In cases of animal neglect, the officer may speak with the owner and issue a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.
If the neglect or abuse is extreme, a humane agency may take custody of the animals to protect them. The agency will present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and possible prosecution.
While most jurisdictions will accept an anonymous report of animal cruelty, the likelihood of a successful prosecution greatly increases with a witness who is willing to testify.
Most cases never make it to trial, but if you want to ensure justice for the abused, you should be willing to give your testimony in court in order to bolster the case.
What role does The HSUS play in local animal abuse and neglect cases?
The HSUS's End Animal Cruelty Campaign focuses on
- Public education
- Advising local agencies and providing monetary grants to assist in specific, local cases
- Direct intervention and rescue in large-scale cruelty cases
- Regular investigations into institutionalized cruelty within agribusiness
- Lobbying to strengthen animal protection laws
- Rewards offered for information leading to an animal cruelty or animal fighting conviction
With each case we initiate, we assist not only in the rescue, handling, and rehoming of animals but also in the subsequent prosecution of each case.
Training for law enforcement
The HSUS also provides specialized training, assistance and resources to animal welfare agencies, law enforcement, and prosecutors around the country on issues involving animal cruelty and animal fighting. We provide educational materials, online courses, operations guidelines, and other expertise.