How to report cruelty to animals

What is cruelty to animals?

Neglect: denying an animal adequate food, water, shelter, medical care or socialization.

Acts of Violence: deliberately torturing, beating or mutilating an animal, or otherwise intentionally causing unnecessary harm and suffering to an animal.

A Crime: almost all acts of violence or negligence to animals are criminal and are punishable by law.  Laws vary by state or region- for example, in some states and cities, it is illegal to keep dogs on chains.  To find out more about the laws in your state and community visit

Reporting cruelty to animals

If it's an emergency: If you witness an act of animal cruelty in progress that requires immediate intervention and you do not know who to contact, Call 911.  The operator will determine what local law enforcement agency should respond to the situation.

For all other Cruelty situations, follow these simple steps:

Find out who to contact: Find out what person or group in your area is responsible for enforcing anti-cruelty laws - this can be a local animal control department, animal shelter or humane society, or staff at the local police station.  Search for “Animal Control” in your telephone book or call your police department and ask.

Document it: Get as much information as you can to give to the authorities. Write a detailed description of the cruelty situation, and if possible get pictures or video as well as statements from other people who have witnessed the cruelty.

Contact the authorities: Once you have the information and know who to contact, call or visit the authorities to report the situation. Give them specific information - if possible provide them with written documentation, and always keep a copy for yourself. Also keep a record of who you spoke to at what department and the date and content of the conversation.

Follow-up: If you feel that it is necessary, follow-up with the agency that you contacted to find out about the outcome of the cruelty situation.  If you are not satisfied, request to have a meeting to discuss the situation further or ask to speak to a supervisor.  Don't be afraid to continue to pursue the case - you may be the only hope for this animal.

Important Information to Keep in Mind: If you see an act of cruelty to animals, you should not attempt to intervene yourself.  Do not place yourself in danger, and do not commit illegal acts such as trespassing or destroying property.  These actions may not only cause you harm, but they could also be counterproductive in forming a case to bring an end to the cruelty situation and prosecute the perpetrators.

While Traveling Abroad

Visit our Compassionate Travel pages to find out how you can take action when you witness cruelty to animals while traveling internationally.

Online Cruelty

Unfortunately there are many websites that depict cruelty to animals as a form of “entertainment” for viewers.  Often, these websites are subsequently confirmed as hoaxes with images created using design software.  Other websites do show real acts of cruelty being inflicted on animals.

Some of these acts have been carried out in countries where little or no legislation exists to protect the animals.  In many images, it is not possible to identify who is committing the acts of cruelty.  The nature of the Internet is such that locating those responsible for these sites would be extremely difficult, and replacement sites can be set up easily after one is closed down.

Take Action: Contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in the United States to find out more information on the legal position regarding any particular website. Also, please avoid directing other to these websites, as this will only generate more ‘hits' for them. It is likely that attempts to contact those responsible for such websites will be counter productive as this may only encourage them further.

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