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  Reporting Animal Cruelty

Suggested Contacts for Reporting Animal Abuse 

If you witness an incident or situation that you suspect constitutes animal cruelty, it is imperative that you report it to the proper authorities. In most cases, animal abuse and neglect can be reported to your local animal control unit. Your community's animal control officer can normally be reached by contacting the local sheriff's office or local humane society. Your local SPCA may also be able to provide resources and information. Search a national directory of animal-related organizations in your area to learn more.

Also, consider other sources to combat animal abuse and cruelty in your state or community: 

Tips for Reporting Abuse
Witnessing animal cruelty is a distressing situation. NHES offers the following tips for reporting animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect.

  • Familiarize yourself with your state and town's animal cruelty laws. The website of your county commission or local library can help you learn the laws of your area.

  • If you believe you have witnessed animal cruelty, document the event as soon as possible. Jot down descriptions of the animal(s), conditions, and other factors along with photos. This can be very helpful to both investigators and criminal prosecutors. Make sure you include relevant dates and times in your notes.

  • Do not violate any laws or put yourself or other persons or animals in danger while documenting suspected animal abuse. 

  • As necessary, report your suspicions to more than one agency and conduct follow-up phone calls and emails to ensure the agencies are responding to the situation. Maintain a written log documenting your contacts with agency personnel. Many investigators are overwhelmed with animal abuse complaints and cases; persistent and patient communications with them are important. 

  • If possible, observe the animal's situation after filing your complaint. If the abuse/neglect continues, file another complaint or request another welfare check. In many circumstances, animal cruelty investigators will first attempt to educate animal owners and/or issue fines before removing the animals or pressing charges. If the abuse continues, investigators should be made aware.

  • Be prepared to be patient, open-minded, and compassionate. Depending on the severity of the situation, it may take time and persistence to affect the positive care and treatment we all know our animal friends deserve. 

  • If you become aware of a situation that does not violate animal cruelty laws, but still involves substandard care of an animal, try to determine the cause and lend assistance if possible. For instance, rather than quickly condemning seemingly neglectful neighbors, try to find out why the dog is always chained up or why there are so many skinny cats running around. Is the situation truly due to a lack of caring, or rather lack of knowledge and resources?

Reporting Internet Animal Abuse
NHES frequently receives questions pertaining to the issue of Internet animal abuse, such as, "What can I do about websites that promote animal cruelty?"
The following are a few tips regarding what to do when you witness depictions of animal cruelty online:

  • First, do not attempt to communicate with the offender. Many of these individuals achieve gratification from the number of responses they receive.

  • If the cruelty/abuse is being depicted on a website, contact the web host. The name of the web host is usually towards the bottom of the webpage. You can also locate the host by doing a lookup on a “WHOIS” database site; there are several that can be found through a quick online search. Hosts have the ability to shut down a website and will do so if they feel the content of the website violates its User's Agreement.

  • If the abuse is depicted on a social networking site, such as Facebook or YouTube, you will not be able to easily obtain information about the origins of the material or the identity of the poster. Instead, you will need to report the content to the administrator of that website. Many sites allow users to  “flag” or "report" offensive content. Resist the urge to "Share" or forward images and videos that depict violence towards animals, as notoriety is the goal of offenders who post their crimes online.

  • If you believe that the poster is breaking the law, save the webpage to your hard drive and alert law enforcement. Police may be able to subpoena IP addresses and charge the individual responsible (IP or Internet Protocol addresses are individual numbers assigned to each machine connecting to a network).

Community Actions 

As the many connections between animal abuse and human violence demonstrate, we must work together as a community to achieve a more humane and just world for animals and humans alike; no one segment of our society can address this issue alone. 

Below are a few actions you can take to help deter animal cruelty and encourage kindness toward all living creatures.  

  • Write letters to prosecutors, judges, and others involved in the legal process for animal cruelty cases in your community. Request strict penalties for offenders. Send a clear message that cruelty to animals should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. 

  • Contact your local and state legislators to encourage them to enact tougher animal cruelty laws. Find out if there are organizations in your locale that lobby and help them with letter writing, telephone, and leafleting campaigns. 

  • Write letters to the editors of newspapers. Encourage friends and family to join in the letter-writing campaign. Even one letter can sometimes make a difference. 

  • Work toward closer collaboration among child protection agencies, animal welfare organizations, legislators, and the criminal justice system. Failure by one agency to recognize and report suspected abuse only allows the abuse to continue in other forms.

  • Partner with teachers and local animal rescues to implement humane education programs in your community’s schools, libraries, clubs, and other venues where children can be taught kindness and respect for animals. 

  • When providing education to others, be aware of media images and films that devalue animals and promote cruel treatment of them. Encourage others to be critical thinkers and to discuss how certain forms of media may impact viewers. If the messages are inappropriate, suggest contacting the media responsible for them and letting them know of your reaction to these images.  

  • Encourage children, family, and friends to humanely and responsibly interact with the natural world—we can only appreciate, value, and protect what we know and care about.

  • Serve as a living humane example. Demonstrate kind and responsible animal care toward your own pets and other animals. Offer compassionate education and assistance through friendly conversation, educational materials,  and animal care items. For instance, you you might lend your neighbors an unused dog crate, or offer to walk their dog if they are not willing or able.

  • Organize caring citizens in your city and state to lobby for the passage of laws regulating the humane care and treatment of animals. For example, some cities and counties have passed ordinance severly limiting, or banning the continuous chaining of dogs.

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