How to Help If You Suspect Animal Abuse or Cruelty

How to Help If You Suspect Animal Abuse or Cruelty

By Patricia Stephens, Owner,

Getting Started

You’ve seen something happening to an animal that’s bothered you, or that you feel is downright cruel. What can you do to help an animal in need?

First, check the animal cruelty laws in Florida by heading over to Animal Legal and
Historical Center. Next, check out laws per county in Florida at Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

Once armed with documentation that what you’ve seen is not only cruel but against the
law, find out who in your town, county or state investigates and enforces the anti-cruelty
laws. Often, these people work for local animal control departments
or humane societies.

If you cannot locate the proper person, call or visit your local sheriff’s office or
police department and ask for help enforcing the law. Be sure to take along plenty of
proof of what you’ve seen.

Gathering Evidence

Once you have located the proper law enforcement officer, provide them with a concise,
written, factual statement of what you have observed, giving dates and approximate
times. Hopefully, you'll have photographed the situation and animal involved.
Short, factual, written statements from other witnesses could also prove helpful.

While reporting, always keep a record of who you contact, the date of the contact(s), and
the content and outcome of your discussions with each person you contact. Never pass
on a letter, document, or photo without first making a copy for your records. Make it
very clear to the enforcing agency or person that you wish to pursue the case and are
willing to lend your assistance.

Pursuing The Heart of the Matter

If the enforcement officers pursue your concerns with less than appropriate enthusiasm
and speed, present your documented case to their supervisors, and, if necessary, to your
local government officials, such as the county commissioners or the state attorney, and
politely demand action.

In most jurisdictions, if you have witnessed a cruel act yourself, you can go to your
local police commissioner and ask to swear out a warrant to summon the accused person
to court. Check with the procedures in your area.

Sometimes, expert witnesses may be required. A veterinarian, for example, can sign a
statement that it is his/her “expert opinion” that a dog suffers if beaten about the head,
deprived of food, etc. Expert opinions often make or break a case, so if you know a
sympathetic vet, you may wish to seek his/her assistance and tell the officer you have an
expert to support your concerns.

Keep a factual, well-documented, step-by-step record of the case. Utilize
various methods of social media to spread the word and perhaps start an online petition.  Try this free online petition.  It will help you get the concern in front of millions of people.

If all else fails, visit or call your local newspapers or television stations and try
to interest reporters in the story. A news story often does wonders in forcing officials to
act and many times, other people who have seen similar acts may step forward to bolster
the cruelty charge you have initiated.

Ask For Help If Needed

While it does require some extra time and effort on your part, reporting abuse, neglect or
abandonment can save the life of an innocent animal. There are several regional and/or
national organizations that stand ready to help you help the animals. They include, but
are not limited to, the following:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Domestic Animal Issues and Abuse Department
(757) 622-7382 ext.1346
Note: This is PETA's animal abuse contact phone number and contact form to ask for help.

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Animal Cruelty Actionline

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. ” - Elie Wiesel

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