Reporting Animal Cruelty                                                              
All information below courtesy of

“Without phone calls from the concerned citizens who report cruelty in their neighborhoods, we wouldn't know about most instances of animal abuse,” says ASPCA Supervisory Special Investigator Annemarie Lucas, whom you may have seen in action on Animal Planet’s Animal Precinct.

Recognizing Animal Cruelty

What constitutes animal cruelty?                                                                    Animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care. Here are some signs that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • Tick or flea infestations
  • Wounds on the body
  • Patches of missing hair
  • Extremely thin, starving animal
  • Limping
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars—or are showing any of the signs listed here—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

Why is it important to report animal cruelty?                                                     The ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement department finds out about most instances of animal abuse in New York through phone calls from concerned citizens who witness cruelty in their neighborhoods. Without tips from the public, many animals would remain in abusive circumstances, mute and unable to defend themselves. It all starts with you—that's why it's so important to learn how to recognize and report crimes against animals.

There’s an animal in my community who isn’t being cared for properly—is that cruelty?                                                                                                                Yes, it is. You don’t have to hit an animal to be cruel to him—depriving an animal of food, water or necessary medical care is neglect, which is a form of cruelty.

There are two general categories of animal neglect: simple neglect and gross, willful, cruel or malicious neglect. Simple neglect (failure to provide basic needs) is not always considered a criminal act, and can often be resolved by the intervention of local animal care and control or humane agencies, which may be able to offer resources and educate offenders on how to provide proper care for their animals. However, a growing number of states make a distinction between simply failing to take adequate care of animals and intentionally or knowingly withholding sustenance. Accordingly, “willful” neglect is considered a more serious, often prosecutable offense.

Neglect can also be an indicator of “animal hoarding,” the accumulation of large numbers of animals in extremely unsanitary conditions, often resulting in the death of many animals and potentially serious health consequences for the people who are living with them. In many cases, individuals charged with animal abuse and neglect in hoarding situations have been found to have children or dependent adults living in the same conditions as the animals who are suffering.

Where to Report Animal Cruelty

Where does the ASPCA have jurisdiction to pursue allegations of animal cruelty?  ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement officers are considered New York State peace officers. Therefore, they can investigate crimes against animals anywhere within the state of New York.

Where do I report animal cruelty in New Jersey?                                         Reports of animal cruelty can be directed to the police department with jurisdiction over your city, town or county. The New Jersey SPCA also investigates animal cruelty cases. Call (800) 582-5979 or fill out NJSPCA's online form.

Where do I report animal cruelty outside of New York City and New Jersey?    The police department that covers your city, town or county is required to investigate criminal complaints, including complaints of animal cruelty and animal fighting. There may also be an animal control agency, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) or humane society that has authority to conduct these investigations.

If you encounter difficulty identifying the correct law enforcement agency with which to file a report of animal cruelty, you may wish to contact your local shelter or animal control agency for help finding this information. To find your local shelter, visit the ASPCA's searchable shelter database containing contact information for nearly 5,000 community SPCAs, humane societies and animal control organizations.

Where do I report animal cruelty taking place in a pet store?                             For concerns about animal cruelty in pet stores, please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can contact its headquarters at (301) 734-7833, visit, or send an email to The USDA will direct you to the appropriate regional department to which you will be asked to submit your complaint in writing.

Where do I report cruelty by an animal breeder?                                                 For concerns about an animal breeder, please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can contact its headquarters at (301) 734-7833, visit, or send an email to  The USDA will direct you to the appropriate regional department to which you will be asked to submit your complaint in writing.

How to Report Animal Cruelty

What information should I have on hand when I make a report of animal cruelty?

Try to gather the following info before submitting a report of animal cruelty:

  • A concise, written, factual statement of what you observed—giving dates and approximate times whenever possible—to provide to law enforcement.
  • Photographs of the location, the animals in question and the surrounding area. However, please do not put yourself in danger! Do not enter another person’s property without permission, and exercise great caution around unfamiliar animals who may be frightened or in pain.
  • If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information of other people who have firsthand information about the abusive situation.

**Remember, never give away a document without making a copy for yourself!

Can I remain anonymous when I file a complaint about animal cruelty?             Yes, you can, and it is better to file an anonymous report than to do nothing—but please consider providing your information to the agency taking the complaint. These agencies have limited resources, and the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court about what they may have witnessed.

If I report my suspicions that a neighbor is committing animal cruelty, and that person’s animal is taken away and put in a shelter, isn’t the animal worse off? It’s important to understand that reporting cruelty is always the right thing to do. Because of the burden it places on the system, animal control officers do not want to remove an animal from a home unless absolutely necessary. If an animal is taken from his or her owner, there was a substantial problem. A seized animal will have the chance to get the necessary help, whether that help is nutritional, medical or behavioral. Also, if an intervention by law enforcement leads to a conviction, you may inadvertently have helped spare other animals from the same abuse: in many states, convicted animal abusers are barred from owning pets.

For more information on Reporting Animal Cruelty go to