Recognizing and Reporting Animal Abuse and Neglect
If you think someone you know is abusing animals, please speak up. The best thing you can do is report your suspicions of abuse or neglect to the appropriate enforcement authorities in your location. Read on for more information about how to recognize and report animal abuse and neglect in your area.
Where to Report Animal Cruelty
In New York City
If you live in New York City and want to report suspected animal abuse or neglect, please contact 311 or for crimes in progress, call 911.
In Other Areas
For other areas outside of New York City, if you witness a crime in progress, call 911. If you suspect someone is abusing or neglecting animals, contact the agency responsible for enforcing the animal-related laws where you believe the abuse to be occurring. That may be the local police, animal control, SPCA or other local humane organization. If you are unsure who to contact, you can contact your local police or animal control to find out, or you can refer to other online resources, such as nationallinkcoalition.org.
When reporting suspicion of animal cruelty, it is best to have as much information as possible. Examples of useful information include:
- A concise, written, factual statement of your observations. Be sure to include the dates and/or times of your observations whenever possible.
- The names and contact information of other people who have firsthand information about the situation and are willing to speak with law enforcement.
- Any photographs or videos of the alleged abuse or neglect. These photos or videos should only be taken from a location where you are lawfully allowed to be, such as a street or other public place. You should never trespass on private property for the purposes of trying to take photos or videos.
- While it is possible to file an anonymous report, the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court.
Once you do make a report, it is a good idea to keep a record of your report. This includes who you spoke with, the date on which you made the report, copies of any documents you provided, and a summary of what law enforcement or animal control told you would happen next. If you do not receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, it is okay to make a polite follow-up call to inquire about the progress of the investigation.
How to Recognize Animal Cruelty
A finding of animal cruelty is ultimately a legal determination and depends on the laws where you live. However, animal cruelty generally falls into two types of categories: intentional acts of harm inflicted upon an animal, and acts of neglect, such as failing to provide an animal with necessary food, water, shelter or veterinary care. Ultimately, determining whether someone committed an act of cruelty against an animal depends upon a complete investigation by the appropriate authorities.
The below physical and environmental conditions can raise concerns of animal cruelty.
- A person striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal.
- Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible.
- A tight collar that has caused a wound or has become embedded in the animal’s neck.
- Signs of an illness or injury that is not being treated, including open wounds or broken bones.
- Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites.
- Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur or overgrown nails that interfere with the animal’s ability to walk or otherwise function normally.
- For signs of dogfighting, please see our additional information.
- Animals confined outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water.
- Animals confined outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter.
- Animals confined to a space that is littered with feces, urine, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them.
- Animals confined in kennels or cages that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements or have sufficient access to food, water or protection from the elements.
Other Animal Cruelty Issues
If you see cruelty depicted online or have first-hand knowledge that a website is displaying or promoting criminal acts, there are steps you can take to report the site or images in question:
- First, it is best to document as much information as you can about the content, including what is being depicted and who is posting it. To help document what is posted, it can be helpful to take screenshots of the offensive content, including any comments or other postings that may shed light on who is responsible for making the content or posting it online, as well as when it occurred.
- You can then report the content to your local police or, if you are able to tell where the posting took place, the police in that area.
- You can also file a complaint with the FBI by posting it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Lastly, you can also alert your local or national news media of the posting, as the power of the media to bring public attention to an animal abuse situation can help initiate corrective actions.
The ASPCA shares your concern about the media's depiction of violence and cruelty toward animals for entertainment purposes. Please know, however, that many of these instances are constitutionally protected free speech—and may not even involve a real animal.
If you are offended by something you viewed, contact the network that aired the program or the publisher of the film in question. You may also wish to contact the American Humane Association Movie and Television Unit online or at (818) 501-0123.