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The ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department (HLE) is empowered to investigate all types of animal cruelty occurring within New York State. Unfortunately, not all behavior that is inhumane or commonly understood as "cruel" is illegal. In New York, the basic crime of animal cruelty encompasses intentional conduct that causes unnecessary harm, pain, or suffering to any animal, as well as the willful neglect of any animal's care, which includes proper food, water, and medical care. Under certain circumstances, it is a felony to intentionally kill or cause serious physical injury to a companion animal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I report animal cruelty in New York City?
A: To report animal cruelty in the Bronx, please call 311. For animal cruelty situations in the other four boroughs, please contact us at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450. To report crimes in progress in any borough, please call 911.
Q: There are several stray dogs in an empty lot in my neighborhood. Who can I call about this situation?
A: Sadly, stray animals are a big problem throughout the country. In New York City, the agency under contract to perform the job of animal control, including the management of stray animals, is Animal Care and Control (AC&C). AC&C will pick up stray animals and bring them to city shelters. In addition, the New York City Health Department is the agency responsible for handling "dangerous dog" complaints. Contact AC&C by calling 311 to report stray animals.
Q: My neighbor does not keep his dog restrained. His dog attacked my dog while we were out for a walk. Can he be arrested for animal cruelty or assault?
A: Under New York State law, the neighbor cannot be arrested for animal cruelty, animal fighting, or assault unless he or she instigated, ordered, or provoked the attack. In cases where this occurs, contact the NYPD to make a report.
Nevertheless, it is a violation of the New York City Health Code for an owner to allow his or her dog to be off-leash in a public place. When an unrestrained dog attacks another animal, the owner of the injured animal should contact the New York City Health Department. The Health Department is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Health Code, which include "leash laws" and the regulation and/or management of "dangerous dogs." In addition, all animal bites must be reported to the Health Department at 311.
Q: I know of an injured dog/cat in need of medical care. The animal was hit by a car and is lying on the sidewalk. Who do I call?
A: If you witness a hit-and-run incident involving an animal and can identify the driver of the vehicle, report the incident to the NYPD. Otherwise, if you did not witness the accident or cannot provide any information about the person responsible for the accident, please contact AC&C by calling 311 to pick up the animal.
Q: My neighbor's dog barks all night long. Is it legal for a dog owner to leave his animal outside all the time?
A: New York law does not require animal owners to allow their animals to sleep inside the house with the rest of the family. If an animal is kept outside with adequate food, water, and shelter from extreme weather, and the animal is not injured or in a poor condition, the owner is not committing animal cruelty.
If the animal's barking has become a nuisance, you may call the New York City Police Department Quality of Life Hotline at (888) 677-5433, or the Department of Environmental Protection at (718) 699-9811.
Q: I was in a pet store in my neighborhood. The animals' cages were dirty, and they all looked very depressed. I am concerned about the animals' welfare. Can HLE close the store?
A: As we all know, some pet stores provide less than ideal living conditions for the animals they sell. HLE does not have any legal authority to close down an animal-related business, including pet stores. Pet stores are licensed by the New York City Health Department, and must comply with the provisions of the New York City Health Code. Where a pet store is repeatedly cited by the Health Department for Health Code violations, the Department has the authority to hold a hearing to suspend the license to operate. Complaints about pet stores should be directed to the Health Department.
HLE inspects pet stores upon complaints of animal cruelty, which includes injured or visibly sick animals, abuse by pet store personnel, or animals without food or water.
Q: I went to the rodeo that is being held in my neighborhood. I have concerns about some the animals I saw there. Who is responsible for checking the conditions of these animals?
A: Exhibitions involving live animals, such as rodeos, circuses, or petting zoos, are under the jurisdiction of the Health Department. Where animals are used in media, such as commercials, films, or broadcasts, the American Humane Association oversees matters relating to how the animals are treated and handled.
HLE inspects animal exhibitions when criminal animal cruelty is reported, which may include instances where animals are hurt but forced to perform, or denied necessary medical care.
Q: I know an owner who abuses his animal. The animal needs to be seen by a veterinarian. What should I do?
A: Criminal animal cruelty occurs when a person intentionally injures or harms any animal, or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care. If you witness a case of animal cruelty, please report this to HLE at firstname.lastname@example.org  or (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450. If you hear of a case of animal cruelty from another person, urge that person to make a report. If you witness an act of animal cruelty in progress, call 911 for an immediate response.
Although you do not have to leave your name when you report a crime, keep in mind that in some cases, HLE will be unable to make an arrest if no witnesses are willing to testify. Unlike human crime victims, animals cannot speak for themselves. Some cases will require a witness to relate what happened to the animal.
Q: What is the ASPCA doing to help the New York City carriage horses?
A: The ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement department assigns agents to check on these horses regularly. The agents make sure that the horses are receiving proper care, that administrative requirements are being met, and that cruelty laws are not being violated.
Q: How many hours are the horses allowed to work? Do they get a day off?
A: Carriage horses are not allowed to work more than nine hours in any 24-hour period. Current law does not provide the horses a day off from work.
Q: It is illegal for carriage horses to work when it is too hot or too cold? What are the laws regarding weather conditions?
A: Carriage horses may not work when the air temperature reaches 90 degrees in the summer or falls below 18 degrees in the winter. Currently, there are no regulations that factor in humidity or wind chill.
Q: Do the carriage horses have to stay in Central Park all the time?
A: No. The horses must stay in or adjacent to Central Park on weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Q: Is the ASPCA the only entity that enforces the laws and regulations pertaining to the carriage horses?
A: No. The New York City Police Department, the Health Department, the Consumer Affairs Department, and the Parks Department also enforce these laws.
Q: What can I do if I think there is a violation involving New York City’s carriage horses?
A: Try to obtain the license plate number of the carriage and report it to the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450.