Reporting suspected family violence can be either a relatively simple or fairly confusing process. In cases of suspected child abuse and neglect, elder abuse, or domestic violence and sexual assault the procedures are fairly straightforward: any municipal, county or state law enforcement agency is authorized to receive reports and initiate an investigation. In addition, every state has either a statewide crisis line, or a directory of county agencies, where reports may be made.
Furthermore, there are statewide associations, such as coalitions for the prevention of child abuse or elder abuse or coalitions against domestic violence, that can offer assistance. Reporting animal cruelty, abuse and neglect is far more complicated. There are no national or statewide systems: contrary to popular opinion, local humane societies or SPCAs (societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals) are not branches or affiliates of the national organizations.
Each local animal welfare organization is independent with its own board of directors and anti-cruelty law enforcement powers which range from full to none. Many city or county animal control or animal services officers are empowered to enforce cruelty laws, but many are not – and many are limited in the scope of which laws or species they are allowed to assist. Click on the map above to find what we believe to be the current procedures in your state, listed by county and often by communities therein.
The listing of a reporting agency does not necessarily mean enforcement is vigorous. Inclusion of a law enforcement agency may merely be by default in the absence of a readily-identified animal control or humane agency. If an agency does not enforce in your jurisdiction or species, they should be able to refer you to the agency that does. If you believe an animal’s life is in immediate danger, call 911.
Do not be surprised if you encounter a “runaround”: in many areas law enforcement officials do not feel adequately trained to handle animal cases and frequently refer complaints to local animal control or humane officers – who, if they are not sworn law enforcement officers, may, in turn refer the caller back to the police or sheriff. Just be patient and keep trying. Insist that animal abuse is a crime and the law enforcement agency is sworn to investigate it as they must with any other possible violation.
A follow-up call may be required to assure the animal gets help. In each state’s Directory on the pages that follow, the reportable agencies are color-coded as follows to help you determine local response: BLACK: a defined animal control/animal services agency (which may be a division of municipal police or county sheriff) GREEN: a defined humane society or SPCA with cruelty investigatory powers BLUE: a municipal police department in a community where no specific animal control authority has been identified BROWN: a county sheriff’s office in a county where no specific animal control authority has been identified PURPLE: animal cruelty enforcement is handled by another agency, such as Code Enforcement, Environmental Services, community dispatch, or others.
These lists will be updated as much as possible. If you are aware of new information that should be added or corrected. please contact the National Link Coalition. When making a report, you must provide specifics. Please provide the dispatcher with your name, a telephone number where you can be reached, the exact address where the animal can be found, a description of the animal, the date and time of the incident, and a description of the abuse or neglect the animal is suffering.
If you have personally witnessed animal cruelty, the investigating officer may ask you to sign a complaint against the animal’s owner. FOR VETERINARIANS: The majority of states now mandate or permit veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse with immunity from civil and/or criminal liability. The AVMA has collected basic information about reporting requirements by state and other resources. The AAHA has a position statement on reporting suspected animal abuse.
FOR SOCIAL SERVICES WORKERS: Child protective services workers are mandated to report animal abuse in Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia, and are permitted to report animal abuse in California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon. Adult protective services workers are mandated to report animal abuse in Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia and are permitted to report animal abuse in California.
REPORTING CHILD ABUSE: 18 states mandate that everyone must report suspected child abuse: Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Animal control and humane officers are mandated reporters in California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Maine, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Veterinarians are mandated reporters in California and Colorado. REPORTING ELDER ABUSE: 8 states mandate that everyone must report suspected elder abuse: Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming. Animal control and humane officers are mandated reporters in Arkansas, California and Maine. Veterinarians are mandated reporters in Illinois.See Also: South Dixie Animal Hospital
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Animal cruelty is not only abhorrent in its own right, but is often tied to other offenses, including violence against adults and children. If you witness any act of abuse, neglect or cruelty against an animal it is your moral responsibility to report it to local law enforcement, or whomever is responsible for cruelty investigations in your community. In most cases you may do so anonymously if you fear reprisal.
Doing nothing does nothing to help animals in need. Asking us in the comments section about what you should do will be met with the same reply: contact your local police department and/or humane society even if you are unsure if what you observe qualifies as animal cruelty since laws vary by state and municipality. PLEASE STOP ASKING US WHAT TO DO; TAKE LEGAL ACTION! The 11 signs of animal abuse, neglect or cruelty Poor body condition and noticeable trauma: The animal has severe matting and a filthy coat, open sores or obvious wounds.
It appears to be flea or tick infested. It’s underweight with bones clearly visible. It might be limping or unable to walk at all, or have congested eyes or ears. It is in obvious physical distress and in need of veterinary care. Lack of food or water: Every time you see this animal, you notice that it has no obvious sources of food and/or water. It may be aggressive due to starvation and thirst, and perhaps very lethargic.
Lack of shelter: The animal is contained in an area fully exposed to inclement weather or constant sun. Lack of sanitation: Feces and/or debris cover the animal’s living area. Abandoned: The animal is left in a house or yard that appears empty. Reports of companion animals abandoned and left to die inside vacant buildings or apartment units are alarmingly common, and it’s a crime in all 50 states to abandon an animal.
If you notice a neighbor has moved or has stopped visiting a residence where you know animals live, be extra vigilant. Some dogs bark and whine to express their anxiety when they’re left alone, but a dog that is howling or barking for several hours is sending a clear signal that it is in need of immediate, life-saving care. The animal is tied or caged: It has little room to move, and/or is unable to stand or turn.
There are chains or padlocks around or embedded into the animal’s neck: This includes regular collars, too. A chained animal is an abused animal. The animal shows evidence of being trained for or having been used to fight: This is especially common with Pit Bull Terriers and even roosters. You may see training implements, treadmills, spring poles, etc. More likely, you’ll notice obvious signs of trauma, such as scars, open wounds, infections or even missing body parts, such as ears or partial tails.
The animal’s behavior is far from normal: It may be very aggressive or severely shy (e.g., cowering, hiding, fear-biting), even with or especially with its owner. There are too many animals living on one property: This can be a sign of animal hoarding. An owner being overtly violent against the animal, striking or otherwise physically abusing it. Download our flyer: 11 signs of animal cruelty and how you can help The worst thing you can do if you witness or suspect animal cruelty or neglect is nothing.
Be that animal’s voice and get it out of its abusive situation immediately. If you have to make multiple reports, do it. Four steps help an abused animal Animal cruelty is illegal in every state and a felony in 48 with the recent passage of the first felony animal cruelty law in Idaho. If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty the responding agency is required to investigate. If you see an animal in distress, don’t assume that someone else will take care of the situation.
Animals can’t speak for themselves; it’s up to you to speak for them. Be prepared: Most large municipalities have a local animal control department, or an animal shelter or humane society responsible for cruelty investigations. Do an online search to identify the agency in your area, and program the number into your mobile phone so you are prepared to report abuse. Speak up or call 911: If you witness overt violence against an animal or suspect it, speak up! If you don’t feel comfortable intervening in a situation directly, call 911 or your local animal welfare organization immediately (see step #1).
It’s essential to call law enforcement when violence is involved, since it is likely part of an ongoing pattern that may include abuse against against people as well. If you’re traveling or living in a more rural area or community without an animal control agency, call 911 or the local police department. Document the details: Tell the officer as many details of the situation as you can: the location, date, time and descriptions of the people and animals involved.
Video and photographic documentation – even a mobile phone photo – can help bolster the case. Provide names of others who may have witnessed the incident. Remain on the scene until authorities arrive, if you can do so safely. Prepare to testify: While you may remain anonymous, the case will be much stronger if you’re willing to identify yourself and testify to what you witnessed. A human witness is crucial for building a strong, prosecutable case.
Additional resources Asking us in the comments section about what you should do will be met with the same reply: contact your local police department and/or humane society even if you are unsure if what you observe qualifies as animal cruelty since laws vary by state and municipality. PLEASE STOP ASKING US WHAT TO DO; TAKE LEGAL ACTION!