Reporting Animal Cruelty
“Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal. Either way, and whether the animal is a pet, a farm animal, or wildlife, the victim can suffer terribly.” —HSUS
Common Examples of Animal Cruelty
- Allowing an animal to become underweight and/or live in unsanitary conditions
- Allowing an animal’s medical conditions to go untreated
- Failure to provide an animal with adequate shelter and clean water, especially in rain or hot sun
- Neglecting to provide a long enough tether for an animal (if tied) or large enough crate (if caged)
- Leaving an animal in a car – even with the windows down, the result could be heat exhaustion or death
- Beating, mistreating, tormenting or abusing an animal
- Intentionally mutilating or inhumanely killing an animal
- Overloading or overworking an animal
- Exposing an animal to poison
- Dog fighting, training an animal to fight or maintaining a location where animals will fight
Forms of Animal Cruelty
Acts of violence, neglect, fighting and physical abuse are considered forms of animal cruelty. In general, animal abuse/cruelty includes five major categories:
- Abandonment/Neglect — Dogs or cats that have been neglected often experience prolonged suffering and can die if left for days or weeks without clean, fresh food and water. This category includes sick or injured dogs and cats in need of obvious medical care.
- Dogfighting — Organized dogfighting, whether it is part of a large formal operation or a neighborhood backyard “sparring match” is illegal. The use of “bait dogs” to train other dogs for fighting is illegal.
- Malicious Poisoning — Placing poisoned food or water in order to harm a cat or dog.
- Puppy/Kitten Mills — Observed as large-scale commercial dog or cat breeding operations. Unlike a reputable dog or cat breeder, puppy/kitten mills place profit over the well-being of the pet. The immediate goal is to produce as many puppies/kittens as possible for a profit, without regard to the health or living conditions. Puppy/kitten mills focus on supplying the majority of pets sold to the public through pet shops.
- Physical Abuse — Dogs or cats that are beaten, tormented, mutilated or otherwise purposely injured.
Signs of Animal Cruelty
- A dog or cat collar that has become so tight that it has caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet’s neck.
- Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn’t being treated.
- Untreated severe skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bleeding, bumps or rashes.
- Extreme thinness or emaciation to the point of seeing protruding bones or sagging skin.
- Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other visible parasites.
- Failure to provide adequate grooming, to the point of causing extreme matting of fur, excessive overgrown nails and imbedded dirt.
- Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally. Signs of tremors or seizure activity that is not being medically treated.
- Heavy discharge from eyes or nose. Persistent coughing or wheezing that is not being medically treated.
- A person observed hitting, kicking or physically abusing a dog or cat.
- A dog or cat that has been tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water or left with spoiled food or unsanitary drinking water.
- A dog or cat that is forced to remain outside in inclement weather (severe heat, rain, storm events) without access to adequate shelter or safe protection.
- A dog or cat that is forced to live in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could cause physical harm or injury.
- A dog or cat that is housed in a kennel or cage that is too small to allow the animal to stand up, turn around or otherwise make normal movements. Overcrowding of dogs or cats into one kennel, cage or penned up confinement that inhibits normal movement.
If You Witness Animal Cruelty
- Document the incident: this can help in prosecuting the abuser.
- Be as detailed as possible: a detailed description of the animal(s), the type of cruelty suspected, and the place on the property you observed the animal(s)
- Include photos or videos: note dates, times and circumstances
- Provide exact address of the location of the animal(s) — street name and number, including the apartment or lot number
- Report animal cruelty or neglect: report along with any evidence/documentation.
- If you have not directly witnessed cruelty but suspect it, you still should notify animal control; the animal control officer will make that determination
- Don’t forget to ask for the name of the officer and what action is planned
- Be persistent: follow up and report any change observed in the animal’s treatment.
Please be aware:
- Animal control officer can only remove a dog in order to prevent further suffering if the animal’s life is in imminent danger. In most cases, the owner is given an opportunity to improve the dog’s condition and provide proper care first. Only in extreme cases do we impound an animal and charge the owner with cruelty to animals.
- An investigating officer is not likely to identify the source of the complaint; however should the cruelty suspect be prosecuted, you may be called as a witness. Your concern for the animal should outweigh your concern about having to testify.
- DO NOT confront the suspected abuser. Animal abuse does not exist in a vacuum: drugs, gang violence, and other violent crime are often present in abuse situations. Do not put yourself in danger.
- DO NOT compromise the case either by attempt to “solve” the problem by providing food, water, shelter, or other care that could potentially destroy the physical evidence of neglect and cruelty, or alert/confront the suspected abuser as he or she may destroy, move, or otherwise tamper with evidence.
- DO NOT take matters into your own hands and remove the dog. To do so may subject the citizen to criminal charges of theft by taking, obstruction of Animal Control, criminal trespass, criminal destruction of property, and other crimes.
- DO NOT incite vigilantism, even through social media. If your posts inspire well-meaning animal-lovers to take matters in their own hands (by removing the animal, for example), the vigilantes could face theft or other charges, civil litigation, and the animal abuser may go free.
Each of us can take steps against cruelty. Together, we can make a difference.