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November 2, 2009

If Your Pet Is Abused or Killed

What you can do

The Humane Society of the United States

It's unthinkable, but it can happen. If your own animal has been deliberately abused, injured or killed, you can take the following steps:

  1. Tend to your animal. If your animal is injured, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Tell the veterinarian that you suspect he was abused and ask the veterinarian to document all injuries. If your animal has been killed, take photos of him exactly as he was found, including wide shots (to show the surroundings) and close-up shots of any wounds.

  2. Contact law enforcement. As soon as possible, call your local animal control agency or sheriff's office to report the suspected crime and ask them to come to the scene of the incident. Collect names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses or potential witnesses.  

    If your animal has been killed, work with the investigating agency and your local veterinarian to get a necropsy performed as soon as possible to determine the cause of death.  

    If you want criminal charges to be pursued, you will need to work with your local investigating agency and prosecutor's office. Be familiar with your state's laws.

    Follow the steps in What You Can Do About Animal Abuse, and be sure to stay in regular contact with the investigator assigned to your case.

  3. Consider your civil options. You may be able to seek financial compensation for your loss in addition to criminal charges. This can include not only direct compensation for the financial loss of your pet, but also compensation to acknowledge your mental anguish. Because such laws vary from state to state, we advise that you contact an attorney to discuss your options.

    Alternatively, you may be able to file a claim to recover financial damages in small claims court, which you may do either with or without an attorney, depending on the law in your state. The court clerk for the county in which your animal was killed or injured can provide you with instructions on how to file a claim.

  4. Consider the impact of the loss for both you and your family. Losing a pet is always difficult, but can be especially traumatic when the animal is intentionally and illegally killed. Our fact sheet on Coping with the Death of a Pet provides a starting point for dealing with your grief.

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