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Breed & Health Resources

How to Report Animal Abuse or Cruelty

By Lea Jaratz

reporting animal abuse

Most pet-loving people have witnessed an incident involving an animal where they wish they could have intervened. It’s in our nature to notice when an animal isn’t being cared for properly and might be suffering from neglect or even cruelty. Fortunately, it’s not your job to intervene directly. There are agencies that can come to the aid of pets or other animals who are living in poor conditions.

Before you make a call, it might help to know what you’re calling about.

What is considered animal cruelty?

Animal neglect is the failure to provide necessary food, water, shelter, or veterinary care. If an animal is suffering, it may not be deliberate, but the owner or caretaker may not be covering all of the necessary items to provide the animal with proper quality of life. In some cases, the person may not realize that they’re not managing things as they should, due to misinformation, ignorance, or other struggles.

Animal cruelty is often considered to be the deliberate or willful harming of an animal. Cruelty is not always an act of violence, but may be a case of extreme or long-term neglect.

How do I recognize cruelty or neglect?

Animal cruelty is not always as obvious as it seems in the fundraising commercials. But, you should be concerned if you encounter an animal with any of these warning signs:

  • Poor body condition: hair loss, flea or tick infestation, untreated medical issues
  • Lack of care: no access to food, water, shelter, exercise area, or sanitary space
  • Chained: Animals kept on chains around the clock, padlocked or wearing collars that are too small
  • Hoarding: too many animals kept in one space without accommodations for sanitation and proper feeding

Where do I report animal cruelty?

In some cases, you may feel comfortable talking with the owner directly. You may have a relationship with them or can provide them with simple education to help them better care for their pet.

But, in most cases, animal cruelty investigators will tell you not to get involved directly, as it can cause the owners to become defensive or hostile, perhaps hiding the animal.

If you feel a pet needs a wellness check or the owner is not caring for the animal, contact your local humane society. Most counties or jurisdictions have agents who are specially trained to investigate calls and complaints of animal neglect and cruelty. They may be called out for anything from a limping puppy to a large hoarding situation, so don’t feel that your situation is too big or too small. You may remain anonymous and the agent will likely follow up on your complaint within a day or two.

If you believe that the animal is in immediate danger, contact your local police department with the details, as they can dispatch immediate attention for the animal. They may not be as well trained in the animal care aspect, but at the very least can intervene and get an animal to an emergency vet, likely turning the case over to the humane society afterwards.

Where should I report other animal-related issues?

Issues related to stray or lost pets don’t generally require humane investigations, but can be reported to your local dog warden or animal control, as should nuisance complaints like excessive barking or pets left at large.

Issues related to wildlife, such as injured animals, are generally reported to a local wildlife institution or nature center, as humane societies generally handle “owned” animals or domestic animals.

But, if you have any concern about the welfare of an animal, it never hurts to contact your local shelter or humane society, as they can direct you to the proper authorities and perhaps help an animal in distress.

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