How to Identify and Report Animal Cruelty

You may have heard that more than 10 million animals die from abuse each year. Keep in mind that that’s just the number of reported cases. That number could be closer to 100 million per year if all cases of animal cruelty were reported.

In order to keep all pets safe, it’s important to know how to report animal cruelty to local law enforcement in the event you suspect abuse.

Defining animal cruelty

how to report animal cruelty

Animal cruelty takes many forms. Ultimately it falls into one of two buckets: intentional acts of harm and acts of neglect. The Human Society of the United States defines it as such:

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. Most cruelty investigated by humane officers is unintentional neglect that can be resolved through education. Intentional cruelty can run the gamut from knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing an animal.

Humane Society of the United States

Recognize signs of abuse

dog left in a hot car

Report cruelty to the local police or animal welfare agency if you witness any of these physical or environmental signs of animal abuse:

  • An animal left alone in a hot car
    • In some states, you can legally break into a car to help an animal in distress
  • Animals left outside for an extended period of time in freezing or hot temperatures
  • Animals left outside for long periods of time without adequate water or shelter
  • Dogfighting
  • Cockfighting
  • Animal hoarding
  • Animals trapped in a hoarding environment (Ex: confined to a space that is difficult to maneuver that is littered with garbage, feces, broken glass, or other objects that could harm them or pose a fire hazard)
  • A pet showing signs of malnourishment like emaciation and extreme thinness
  • A person physically striking an animal
  • Signs of injury like broken bones or open wounds that indicate the pet is not being treated by a veterinarian
  • Fur infestations like fleas, ticks, and other parasites

How to Report Animal Cruelty

There are a few ways you can report animal cruelty and animal fighting.

Look up the contact information of local SPCAs, animal control officers, police department, or other law enforcement agency that responds to animal abuse or neglect in your area.

A fantastic resource to use is from nonprofit, a national directory of abuse investigation agencies. It features an interactive map of the U.S. where you can click on your state to view phone numbers and more of where to report suspected abuse.

If you witness a crime in progress, call 911.

Take notes

Now that you know who to call, let’s take a look at the key information to report. Give as many details as possible.

  • Note the date, time, and location
  • If you can, take photos or videos of the animals and surrounding area
  • Names or contact information of others with possible knowledge of the situation
  • Contact information of the responding officer’s agency to follow up, if desired

There is a proven link between animal abuse, domestic violence, murder, and child abuse

Image courtesy Nation Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA)

Researchers have found an unfortunate link between animal abuse and gun violence in American schools. In one study that evaluated 23 perpetrators of school massacres between 1988 and 2012, 43% of them committed animal cruelty.

If the study was updated to include school shootings up to 2022, that number would likely increase. There have been nearly 1,000 additional school shootings since 2012.

Here are some more stats and facts about cruelty to animals:

  • 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser targeted their pets too
  • Pet abuse occurred in 88% of families under investigation for suspected child abuse
  • Abuse most often reported is of dogs, cats, horses, and livestock
  • In a study of 36 convicted serial killers, 46% admitted to committing acts of animal torture as adolescents

There is a clear link between violence against animals and violence against humans. If we can catch abusers early enough, we could avoid further tragedy and loss of life.

Reporting & educational resources

Map of state-by-state animal protection & animal cruelty laws: Animal Legal Defense Fund

National Directory of Abuse Investigation Agencies: National Link Coalition

How to recognize animal cruelty and neglect: ASPCA