Despite the many people and groups involved in animal welfare and conservation, the sad fact is that animal abuse and neglect remains a serious problem USA. Unfortunately, the relevant laws are quite confusing and lack uniformity, and it is often difficult which agency is responsible for enforcing them. It is worthwhile, however, to learn as much as you can about how to proceed – most enforcement authorities are poorly staffed, and rely almost exclusively upon citizen complaints for leads.
State and Federal Laws
Animal abuse is a crime in all 50 states, and almost all aspects of the problem are controlled by state law. The only areas covered by a federal law (the Animal Welfare Act) are commercial animal breeding facilities, zoos, circuses and research labs.
Details, such as what constitutes abuse or neglect and how the laws are actually enforced, vary from state to state. In some states, various types of illegal situations (i.e. dog-fighting, neglect in pet stores, abused animals in private residences) are handled by different law-enforcement agencies.
Determining Whom to Call
Fortunately, the ASPCA provides a list of enforcement agencies in all 50 states.
Animal shelters are also excellent sources of information concerning local laws and the most effective methods of reporting animals in distress. The ASPCA Nationwide Animal Shelter Directory is a valuable resource.
Police departments are required to assist in emergency situations (dial 911); your local police department can also advise you on how to proceed in non-emergency situations.
Your Safety and That of Others
In addition to helping animals, reporting animal cruelty can save human lives…studies have conclusively established that animal abusers are highly likely to engage in violent crimes against people. For this reason, police officers advise those witnessing animal abuse not to take action themselves, but rather to dial “911” if an immediate response is necessary.
A wealth of information and links to valuable resources is available at the PetAbuse.com website.