If you think someone you know is abusing animals, please speak up. The best thing you can do is report your suspicions of cruelty to your local law enforcement agency, humane organization, animal control agency or taxpayer-funded animal shelter. Read on for more information about how to recognize and report cruelty in your area.
Where to Report Animal Cruelty
In New York City
If you live in New York City and need to report animal cruelty, please contact 311. To report crimes in progress in any borough, please call 911.
In Other Areas
Find out who is responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty codes in your town, county and/or state, such as your local humane organization, animal control agency, taxpayer-funded animal shelter or police precinct. If you have trouble finding the correct agency to contact, call or visit your local police department or your local shelter or animal control agency for assistance.
How to Report Cruelty
Try to gather the following information before submitting a report of animal cruelty:
- A concise, written, factual statement of what you observed—giving dates and approximate times whenever possible—to provide to law enforcement.
- Photographs of the location, the animals in question and the surrounding area. Note: do not put yourself in danger! Do not enter another person's property without permission, and exercise great caution around unfamiliar animals who may be frightened or in pain.
- If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information of other people who have firsthand information about the abusive situation.
- It is possible to file an anonymous report, but please consider providing your information. 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.
Keep a record of exactly whom you contacted, the date of the contacts, copies of any documents you provided to law enforcement or animal control and the content and outcome of your discussion. If you do not receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, make a polite follow-up call to inquire about the progress of the investigation.
How to Recognize Animal Cruelty
While an aggressive, timid or fearful animal may appear to be a cruelty victim, it is not possible to know if an animal is being abused based on their behavior alone. It is best to examine the animal and his surrounding environment to determine whether or not he or she needs help.
Physical Signs of Cruelty
- Tight collar that 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 skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes
- Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible
- Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites
- Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes
- Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails and dirty coat
- Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
- Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
- An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
- Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness
Environmental Signs of Cruelty
- Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary
- Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter
- Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
- Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements
Other Animal Cruelty Issues
To Report Cruelty Seen on the Internet
If you see cruelty depicted online, there are steps you can take to report the site or images in question:
- Access this background information for a particular website by visiting www.whois.net and doing a "whois" search of the site in question.
- Contact the site's ISP (Internet service provider) about the offensive material.
- If you have concrete information that a website is displaying/promoting criminal acts, you may wish to contact any or all of the following organizations and advise them of the facts of the situation:
- Local law enforcement officials ("Local" in this case means based in the area from which the website originates—the "whois" search will provide you with the registrant's address) and, if you think an animal is in immediate danger, the possible offender's local FBI branch
- Your local animal shelter or humane society, which may have the power to enforce animal cruelty laws in the area
- The local city/county Health Department/Board of Health, because abuse of animals often involves unsafe or unsanitary conditions for humans
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), but only if what you have seen has a financial element (someone selling, trading, or offering an illegal good or service)
- Local and national media organizations, as the power of the media to bring public attention to an animal abuse situation can help initiate corrective actions
To Report Cruelty Shown in Movies or on Television
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.