What should I do if I witness an animal
If you witness animal abuse or neglect, please
contact your local humane society, animal shelter, or animal control
agency immediately. In most areas, those agencies have the authority
to enforce state and local laws related to animals and the capability
to investigate and resolve these situations. They rely on concerned
citizens to be their eyes and ears in the community and to report
animal suffering. You can choose to remain anonymous, although giving
your name to your humane agency will enable that group to follow up
with you when necessary.
These dedicated agencies have the important job of
ensuring that animals in their jurisdiction receive proper food,
water, and shelter, and are protected from abandonment and cruel
treatment. The prevention of cruelty to animals represents the
core mission of many local animal care organizations. Investigation
requests can come from members of the community or other law
How are complaints investigated?
While the exact process may vary depending on the
local laws and procedures, an officer will look into the complaint to
see if animal cruelty statutes have been violated. If in fact a
violation has occurred, the officer may speak with the owner and issue
a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.
The majority of cruelty complaints stem from simple
neglect of the animal, rather than deliberate abuse. The humane
officer's biggest role is as an educator—informing well-meaning, but
unknowledgeable, pet owners of the proper care of their pets.
In rare cases, animal neglect or abuse may be
extreme and require immediate intervention. Depending on the
circumstances, the animals may be removed from the situation by the
humane agency to protect them from further harm. The agency will
present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and
possible prosecution. Some agencies have the power to obtain and serve
warrants; other agencies work closely with local police who execute
the search warrant on their behalf.
What happens to the pet owner and the
animals in these cases?
State and local laws are written to protect the
individuals being prosecuted as well as the animals involved. Such
laws also determine how long the animals must be housed at the animal
shelter while a case is being processed by the court system. Caring
for animals seized in a cruelty case can be an expensive and
time-consuming effort. When animals must be housed at the shelter for
long periods of time while a case is being processed, it can create
stress for both the animals and the staff.
With the best interests of the animals in mind, many
states have established civil procedures to allow the agency to
petition the general district court in the city or county where the
animals were seized for a hearing to expedite custody of the animals
to the agency. This type of process prevents a long stay at the
shelter for the animals involved while waiting for resolution to the
trial, and allows them to be adopted to new, safe homes or humanely
euthanized if they are suffering or unsuitable for adoption.
How can I find my local animal care and
You can find the name and number of your local
humane society or animal control agency by looking in your phone
book's yellow pages under "animal shelter," "humane
society," or "animal control," or by calling
Information. Often, public animal care and control agencies are also
listed under the city or county health department or police