Most of us will either witness or develop some personal knowledge of animal cruelty or neglect in our lifetimes. It can be the dog who lives outside on a chain 365 days a year without adequate shelter. It can be the injured cat abandoned in a parking lot and left to die. Perhaps it is the neighbor next door who has dozens of animals, living in filth and receiving no human attention at all. Perhaps it is the property down the street where cars are seen coming and going at all hours, bearing out-of-state plates and taking away large dogs who are limping or bleeding.
The obvious question becomes: what can I do to help? How can I stop this? Unfortunately, the answers to those questions are not quite so obvious and they can vary depending on what has happened and where you live. Although you may hear or see things with which you do not agree and which you consider to be cruelty or neglect, they may not necessarily be considered criminal acts which can be acted upon by law enforcement or other authorities.
Regardless of the nature of the problem, the responsibility to do something about it belongs to you and to you alone. You are their voice. You are the only person who can act on your personal knowledge. Although many of us have seen programs on television about “Animal Cops” who work to enforce animal welfare laws, those resources are not available in most areas. Some people who see a situation they know is wrong would rather not “get involved” and may expect someone else to act for them. If the situation is important enough to you, take the time to do something about it. Even if the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction, you will at least know that you did your best. It could be that you are the one person who can make the situation better for the animals involved.
A Note About Content
The information contained on this page and subsequent pages is based on my personal experience and on my general knowledge of the legal system and law enforcement operations in the United States. The information presented here is not legal advice. If you have questions about the laws in your state, civil or criminal, please consult with an attorney.
There are two general categories of animal neglect in most areas: 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. (Neglect can also be an indicator of “animal hoarding,” which is he accumulation or "collecting" of large numbers of animals who are housed 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.) Willful neglect is considered a more serious, often prosecutable offense.