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Animal Cruelty – Frequently Asked Questions

ASPCA National Shelter Outreach


Q. How do I report an animal cruelty or neglect situation in my area?
A. Cruelty to animals is illegal and considered a felony in 33 states. To report an inhumane situation in your area, contact your local police department, SPCA, humane organization or animal advocacy group. To locate an animal advocacy group in your area, log onto and click on “Report Animal Cruelty.” Ask for the Case Number so you can follow up with the situation and make sure it has been investigated. Be persistent if necessary.

Animal Cruelty – Frequently Asked Questions


Q. I am aware of a situation where the family pet is being harmed and I think other family members are also being abused. What should I do?
A. There is now more recognition of the fact that animal abuse frequently occurs within families where there is other domestic violence, often directed at women, children or the elderly. The animal may be targeted for abuse as a way of intimidating, threatening, or frightening family members. There is also a connection between children who witness or experience violence at home and their subsequent cruel treatment of animals. All states have child protective services hotlines for reporting child neglect or abuse. For more information or to ask us to send you a packet of information, contact Dr. Stephanie LaFarge in the Animal Sciences Department at (212) 876-7700 x4355.

Q. I am disappointed with the services and/or conditions of my local shelter/humane organization. What can I do to make it better for the animals?
A. Communicate your concerns directly with the executive director. If you do not feel your complaint receives an adequate hearing, contact the board of directors. The membership of a non-profit board is public knowledge and can be obtained from the shelter management or by making a Freedom of Information Act request to the state Attorney General’s office. If the shelter is a municipal agency or has a service contract with the local municipality, contact the city council and county administrator as well. You can also file a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau which may have a separate philanthropic division. For more information and materials, call the ASPCA National Shelter Outreach Department at (212)876-7700 x4403 or e-mail

Q. In addition to donating to humane organizations what else can I do to help animals?
Here’s how you can help:

  • Learn all you can about animal welfare and spread the word! Join humane organizations and read their publications to learn about the issues. Read articles in the library at
  • Write letters advocating the humane treatment of animals and the passage of humane laws. Join The ASPCA Advocacy Brigade at
  • Volunteer at your local humane organization or animal sanctuary to walk dogs, clean stalls, care for or foster animals, hold fundraisers and awareness campaigns, be an advocate for shelter animal adoption.
  • Adopt your next animal companion at your local shelter and save a life. Convince your friends and family to do the same.
  • Make humane and responsible choices in things you buy, eat and wear.
  • Always report cruelty or neglect of an animal when you see it and follow up to make sure it has been investigated.
  • Find out if schools in your community teach humane education and, if not, contact our Humane Education Department at to find out how to bring humane lesson plans into schools near you!

Q. How do I become an “Animal Cop” (cruelty investigator, animal control officer or humane law enforcement officer)?
A. The authority to investigate animal cruelty varies from state to state:

  • Contact your local animal control agency to determine your state or municipality’s requirements and local training. Contact the National Animal Control Association by visiting or by e-mailing, tel. 913-768-1319.
  • In New York State, contact the State Education Department of Professional Licensing at 89 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12203 or call (518)474-3852 or (518) 474-3817.

Q. Are there other jobs available that involve helping animals?
A. There are many jobs in animal welfare-related fields. Some require little training while others require a college degree. You may wish to start your career path by volunteering with your local humane society or animal shelter. To learn about different “Careers with Animals Job Descriptions”, click here.

© 2002 ASPCA

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424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700

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