All New Yorkers Have a Role in the City’s Humane Reputation

July 27, 2018

a puppy being held by an NYPD officer

By Matt Bershadker, ASPCA CEO

We recently released a survey exploring public awareness of one of the most sickening and horrific forms of animal cruelty—dogfighting. Reviewing the results, we were surprised to discover that, here in New York City, less than half of those who suspected this vicious activity in their communities reported it to the police. Eleven percent did nothing at all. 

Reporting cruelty is vital to protecting city animals and stopping abusers like Tyrike Richardson. Last February, the Staten Island resident was sentenced to 15 months in jail after abusing his neighbor’s cat mercilessly with a broom handle, posting it on Facebook and leaving his victim in a garbage can to die. The animal—named Chester—survived but sustained rib fractures, broken teeth, tongue abrasions, head trauma and liver and kidney injuries. 

This event horrified us as a city, and it should have. But a city’s reputation for compassion shouldn’t be measured by the crimes of those who betray animals; it should be measured by the dedication of those who respond and commit to their protection—and that includes recognizing the signs of animal cruelty and knowing what to do next. 

Signs of animal cruelty may include a collar so tight that it causes a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet's neck, multiple wounds, extreme emaciation and being left outside for an extended period without access to adequate food and water. Even if you’re unsure, please give the animal’s safety the benefit of the doubt and contact law enforcement if you suspect cruelty. 

Responsible reporting means calling the police first—before posting concerns, accusations and evidence online. To report suspected animal cruelty in New York City, call 311. If you see a crime in progress, call 911. In both cases, the NYPD will follow up and the ASPCA will step in if necessary to care for victimized animals. Make sure to document what you saw, including dates and approximate times, and know these reports can be made anonymously. 

By taking on this responsibility, you’re joining New York City organizations and institutions already actively fighting for the protection of city animals, including Animal Care Centers of NYC, which is maintaining a historically high live release rate around 93%; Mayor de Blasio, who has committed funds to create a full-service animal shelter in the Bronx; and our partnership with the NYPD, which has resulted in more than 600 animal cruelty arrests and nearly 3,000 victims treated since launching city-wide in 2014. That culture of compassion is also represented by hundreds of animal adopters, fosters, volunteers, advocates and owners who live across the city. 

The animals in our communities provide us with invaluable love and companionship. What we owe them in return is our best effort to keep them safe from harm. Fulfilling that obligation is sometimes obvious, but not always. So please be vigilant and forward this information to others so that our city, which we share with animals and with each other, can truly live up to its humane reputation.

Previously published in AMNY.