What Can I Do?

1. Be aware. Without phone calls from the concerned citizens who report cruelty in their neighborhoods, we wouldn't know about most instances of animal abuse. It all comes from the public, it all starts with YOU—that's why it's so important to keep your eyes and ears open. Get to know and look out for the animals in your neighborhood. By being aware, you're more likely to notice, for example, that the dog next door who was once hefty has lost weight rapidly—a possible indicator of abuse.

2. Learn to recognize animal cruelty. Here are some signs and symptoms that we see in many of the cases we investigate:

  • Tick or flea infestations. Such a condition, if left untreated by a veterinarian, can lead to an animal's death.
  • Wounds on the body.
  • Patches of missing hair.
  • Extremely thin, starving animals.
  • Limping.
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal.
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, often chained up in a yard.
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars-or are showing any of the signs listed above-and have not been taken to a veterinarian.
  • Dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions.
  • Animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners.
3. Provide as much as information as possible when reporting animal cruelty. The details that you provide can go a long way toward assisting the investigating officer. It helps to write down the type of cruelty that you witnessed, who was involved, the date of the incident and where it took place.

4. Take care of the animals you have, and encourage others to do the same...For the most part, many people's hearts are in the right place when it comes to their pets, they simply don't know all the facts. In educating people about how to better care for their own animals, we hear many of the same excuses, and they don't even *realize* that they are inadvertently putting their animals at greater risk, because no one has ever explained it to them. So the first part is to get involved enough to educate yourself. Then you can begin educating other people.

5. Start a neighborhood watch.
Creating a neighborhood watch group is one way a community can take a stand against crime - including animal cruelty. And because the ties that bind animal cruelty and interpersonal violence are so strong, the entire community will be safer for pets and people.

So how can you start a neighborhood watch? Send a flier around the neighborhood expressing your desire to start a neighborhood watch. You may also want to call or visit your neighbors. Set up a meeting at your home or a clubhouse for the neighbors to sit and discuss the matters. At first, there may only be a few participants - but that is enough to start a neighborhood watch program.

Contact your local police department. They may send an officer that will help you organize a watch as well as tell you what to do in the event that suspicious activity occurs. The officer may also identify if your neighborhood has a potential problem or not.

Set up who is going to patrol the area and when. On weekends, you may need additional help.

Start a newsletter for your neighborhood watch. Share local crime statistics as well as ways to prevent crime. Welcome your new neighbors to the neighborhood. You may also find it helpful to post signs that your neighborhood is being watched to deter crime.


If you suspect that an animal has been abused, by someone you know or by a stranger, there are things you can do. The most important act you can take is to report the cruelty to your local law enforcement. In some cities, this may be animal control or a department of Humane Law Enforcement, while in other areas the police or sheriffs department may be the agency in charge of these sorts of crimes.

If you are unsure of who to contact, try your local yellow pages, or you can use the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Lookup page to locate the agency in your area. You can also check the front section of your telephone yellow pages and search for Animal Control.

Some areas (especially more rural parts of the country) may not have a designated Animal Control Department, in which case there may be a an branch of a local humane society that has been assigned the power to investigate cruelty cases. If your city does not have an animal control or humane law enforcement department, cruelty cases may fall under the jurisdiction of the sheriff's department or local police.

If you witness animal cruelty in progress and do not know the number to the appropriate agency, CALL 911. Animal cruelty is a CRIME, and the police dispatcher will be able to determine which department should respond.

Repeat offenses of animal cruelty crimes are a rule, not an exception - and there are many times when an investigation into an animal cruelty crime uncovers human-related crimes as well. When officers go to the home to investigate an animal cruelty issues, they often find evidence of domestic abuse, child neglect, drugs and other dangerous situations. Reporting animal cruelty could save a human life.

When a violent crime is committed against anyone you love, there is always a flood of emotions: anger, outrage, hurt, worry, helplessness... Your pets are no exception, and when someone deliberately causes them harm, the reaction isn't much different than if they had attacked a human family member. The fact is, there are some things you can do. Animal abuse is a crime, and depending on where you live, it can be a pretty serious one.

Do NOT attempt to deal with the crime yourself. The authorities are there to help you, and the sooner they are involved, the better.