Animal Rescue Associates, Inc.

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Animal Abuse

Animal Abuse and Neglect

When you see a dog stuck on a chain for days or come across a web site that glorifies animal suffering, your action is critical to stopping it!

What is animal cruelty?

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. Most cruelty investigated by humane officers is unintentional neglect that can be resolved through education. Intentional cruelty, or abuse, is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.

Why is it a concern?

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.

Is there any evidence of a connection between animal cruelty and human 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.

Why would anyone be cruel to animals?

There can be many reasons. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, 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 things 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.

What happens when authorities prosecute an animal cruelty case?

Depending on the severity of the case, individuals found guilty may be imprisoned. Appropriate sentencing can also include individual or family counseling, community service, or diversion programs. It is rarely the goal of the authorities to imprison a child for cruelty to animals. Law enforcement officers and judges recognize that cruelty to animals is one part of a complex problem. Sometimes the official response to animal cruelty provides a family its first opportunity to get help.

Can reports be made anonymously?

While many jurisdictions will respond to an anonymous complaint, successful prosecutions often depend on an identifiable witness who can authenticate evidence.

 Some Resources for Locating a Shelter

Please contact Animal Rescue of Illinois at anytime regarding questions on adoption!

Reporting Animal Abuse and Neglect

What should I do if I witness an animal being mistreated?


If you witness animal abuse or neglect, please contact your local humane society, animal shelter, or animal control agency immediately. In most areas, those agencies have the authority to enforce state and local laws related to animals and the capability to investigate and resolve these situations. They rely on concerned citizens to be their eyes and ears in the community and to report animal suffering. You can choose to remain anonymous, although giving your name to your humane agency will enable that group to follow up with you when necessary. 

These dedicated agencies have the important job of ensuring that animals in their jurisdiction receive proper food, water, and shelter, and are protected from abandonment and cruel treatment.  The prevention of cruelty to animals represents the core mission of many local animal care organizations. Investigation requests can come from members of the community or other law enforcement agencies.

How are complaints investigated?

While the exact process may vary depending on the local laws and procedures, an officer will look into the complaint to see if animal cruelty statutes have been violated. If in fact a violation has occurred, the officer may speak with the owner and issue a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.

The majority of cruelty complaints stem from simple neglect of the animal, rather than deliberate abuse.  The humane officer's biggest role is as an educator—informing well-meaning, but unknowledgeable, pet owners of the proper care of their pets.

In rare cases, animal neglect or abuse may be extreme and require immediate intervention. Depending on the circumstances, the animals may be removed from the situation by the humane agency to protect them from further harm. The agency will present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and possible prosecution. Some agencies have the power to obtain and serve warrants; other agencies work closely with local police who execute the search warrant on their behalf.

What happens to the pet owner and the animals in these cases?

State and local laws are written to protect the individuals being prosecuted as well as the animals involved. Such laws also determine how long the animals must be housed at the animal shelter while a case is being processed by the court system. Caring for animals seized in a cruelty case can be an expensive and time-consuming effort. When animals must be housed at the shelter for long periods of time while a case is being processed, it can create stress for both the animals and the staff.

With the best interests of the animals in mind, many states have established civil procedures to allow the agency to petition the general district court in the city or county where the animals were seized for a hearing to expedite custody of the animals to the agency. This type of process prevents a long stay at the shelter for the animals involved while waiting for resolution to the trial, and allows them to be adopted to new, safe homes or humanely euthanized if they are suffering or unsuitable for adoption. 

How can I find my local animal care and control agency?

You can find the name and number of your local humane society or animal control agency by looking in your phone book's yellow pages under "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control," or by calling Information. Often, public animal care and control agencies are also listed under the city or county health department or police department.

You can also find contact information for animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community through web sites like and If there is not a shelter or animal control agency in your community, please report any incident to your police department immediately.

Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States

What To Do About a Dog Who is Left Outside

The HSUS and ARI strongly recommends that all pets be kept indoors with their family. We do not discourage pet owners from letting their dogs spend time outside, as long as the animals are supervised and under control at all times. But leaving a dog outside for long periods, especially if he or she is chained or otherwise tethered, can be physically, emotionally, and behaviorally detrimental. Dogs need companionship, care, exercise, and attention.

Tethering or otherwise leaving a dog outside for an extended period without supervision not only deprives the animal of these things, but can also lead to behavior problems, including aggression. It may place the dog in serious physical danger: A confined or tethered dog is unable to escape the harsh effects of weather (heat, cold, storms, etc.), attack by other animals, or theft or abuse by humans. The HSUS receives countless calls and letters from pet owners and neighbors about dogs who have died from exposure or been stolen, abused, or even killed while left tied outside.

If you are concerned about a dog who is frequently tethered or otherwise left outside without proper shelter, food, or water, please contact your local humane society or animal control agency. A growing number of anti-cruelty laws and ordinances include "adequate care standards" that make it illegal to keep a dog outside without proper shelter in inclement weather or dangerous temperatures. Several communities have enacted ordinances prohibiting the tethering of dogs altogether.

Your local animal care and control organization will be familiar with the laws and ordinances that apply to your particular area and situation. Even if the dog's owner is not violating any laws, an animal control officer or cruelty investigator may be able to persuade and empower the dog owner to take steps to improve the situation. In some instances, persuading the individual to voluntarily give up the dog is the best solution for the animal.

The easiest way to find your local humane society or animal control agency is online at Here you can enter your zip code and find a list of animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community. You may also want to call Information or look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under listings such as "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control." Public animal care and control agencies are often listed under the city or county health department or police department.

Updated Jan. 18, 2008. Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States