It’s hard to imagine someone intentionally or unintentionally bringing harm to an animal. Still, the unsettling reality is that these cases occur. The animal victims rely on people to speak up or intervene on their behalf. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know exactly what to do when an animal welfare issue arises. Whom do you contact and how? Should you always err on the side of caution and report any suspicious behavior?
As community leaders responsible for helping residents navigate the proactive and accurate reporting of animal welfare issues to ensure prompt and humane responses, share the following guidance, and consider adding tools to your communication channels that allow for immediate, geo-tagged, and optionally anonymous abuse reporting capabilities.
A Review of Animal Welfare Issues
Animal abuse is a crime in all 50 states, with some forms of animal cruelty being felony crimes. Animal abuse usually occurs in two forms:
- The intentional infliction of physical harm to an animal
- Neglect, which is when an animal is deprived of basic needs such as food, water, shelter, moving space, or medical attention
Negligence can be intentional or unintentional, but neither is acceptable and should be reported immediately.
Actions You Should Encourage and Educate Residents to Take if They Suspect or Witness Animal Abuse
Call the Police
Make sure your residents know that if they witness animal cruelty or abuse, they are witnessing a crime. Their first step should be to contact law enforcement. If the animal’s life is not in immediate danger, but they are still suffering from neglect, they can dial the law enforcement non-emergency line.
Communicate to residents that they do not need to concern themselves with being able to prove what has happened; that will be left up to law enforcement or the animal control agency responsible for investigating the case.
Residents should not put themselves in harm’s way to intervene, nor should they ignore an abusive situation out of the misperception that the issue is not their business.
Ensure clear instructions are easily accessible on your municipal website that outlines the proper escalation steps, starting with reporting the abuse to the police.
Contact Your Local Animal Control or Humane Society
Residents should contact their local animal welfare agency in all cases of potential animal abuse, even if they’ve already contacted the police. Law enforcement may need to be involved in addressing the crime committed. Still, the animal welfare agency will have more specific experience and significant resources to address the problem and tend to the animal(s) in question.
Online Reporting of Animal Welfare Issues to Your Local Government
When there isn’t an immediate threat to an animal where a resident suspects there may be a welfare issue, enable them to use an online reporting tool, such as a citizen request management application, to empower residents to conveniently report a concern. Residents can use this method to attach a picture and location information with additional details so local authorities can respond accordingly. This method lets you keep that concerned resident updated and informed about the report’s status and will enable you to continue two-way communication with the reporting party if necessary.
To help residents keep animal welfare issues top of mind, add a dedicated animal welfare category to your reporting tool. Also, add a disclaimer that this method of reporting should only be used in non-emergency situations.
How to Communicate Safety Reminders to Your Public
To further empower residents to report concerning activities, regularly remind residents about their responsibility to protect your community’s animals using these communication methods:
- Use your municipal website to create informational content, including blog posts, to educate residents on what animal abuse is and how to address it, complete with steps that may be specific to your community
- Create a social media campaign aimed at eradicating animal abuse in your community and tag your local animal welfare agencies
- Implement our Citizen Relationship Management solution and its SeeClickFix resident app and encourage residents to use it to report animal abuse directly when observed
- Have educational resources available that reflect the above information at community events such as pet adoption events, community fairs, and other activities that bring awareness to the topic