All animal cruelty is a concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature. Intentional cruelty is a particular concern because it is a sign of psychological distress and often indicates that an individual either has already experienced violence or may be predisposed to committing acts of violence.
Absolutely. Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
There can be many reasons-from simple ignorance or neglect to malicious intent. Animal cruelty is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or to demonstrate rejection of society's rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy behaviors they have seen or that have been done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal.
Unless you feel comfortable and safe speaking to the animal owner directly about your concerns, you should contact your local law enforcement agency. Law enforcement officers, and certain Humane Agents have the authority to investigate animal cruelty complaints, but their level of involvement will vary depending on the location and nature of the complaint. The law enforcement authority in your town could be your local animal control officer, a police department, the state police or the county sheriff. Contact your town office or police department to find out who provides cruelty law enforcement services for your town.
There is no one formula for handling animal cruelty complaints. The response you get may vary greatly depending on each situation and the available resources in your community. Typically, an investigation will start with a visit to the animal owner who is the subject of the complaint. In most cases, unless the animal(s) is in immediate danger the officer or the humane agent will first try to rectify the situation by educating the pet owner about how to provide better care for their animal. If the situation does not improve, and there is enough evidence to warrant it, the animals may be seized as part of a criminal investigation.
Most first-time animal cruelty offenses qualify as misdemeanors. If a person intentionally kills an animal by means causing the animal undue pain or suffering, it can qualify as a felony offense. Second offenses are a felony. Participating in animal fighting events and activities is also a felony.
Not all agencies accept anonymous complaints; check individual agency policy if you wish to file anonymously. The state veterinarian's office will only become involved with written complaints by an identified person. Should you choose to file a complaint anonymously, your anonymous complaint may be used to gather further information relevant to the case. Although cases may not always proceed to court, signed statements from witnesses who are willing to testify are always more reliable and useful if no further leads can be found.
Governor's Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals