Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to animal cruelty, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
Responses that Increase Suspected Animal Cruelty Referrals
1Training across disciplines and developing cross-reporting mechanismsIncreases the likelihood that animal cruelty will be detected...specific reporting protocols are established; investigations are conducted only by the agency with the legal authority to do soInformation must be shared without violating client confidentiality
2Training veterinarians to recognize and report non-accidental injuriesIncreases the likelihood that animal cruelty will be detected...veterinarians ask about the causes of injury and observe the animal for unusual behavior; veterinarians know how to report their suspicions to police or the local animal welfare agencyMany offenders will not seek treatment for the animals they have mistreated
3Increasing public awareness and surveillanceIncreases the likelihood that animal cruelty will be detected...information campaigns highlight the warning signs of ordinary mistreatment, rather than relying on sensational cases; citizen patrols are alerted to the warning signs of animal crueltyResidents may choose not to report because they fear retribution by the animal's owner
4Creating mechanisms for reporting suspected animal abuse anonymouslyIncreases the likelihood that animal cruelty will be detected...animal cruelty reporting is made a part of other crime reporting programs or city service request systems; dispatchers are not given the reporting party's nameResidents may not know how to access crime reporting systems; partnering with area Crime Stoppers can help publicize recent crimes and the availability of rewards
Responses that Increase Expertise in Preventing Animal Cruelty
5Developing expertise among criminal justice practitionersIncreases the ability to detect and respond appropriately to animal cruelty...animal welfare organizations are involved in training; training includes sessions on relevant laws, investigative techniques, and evidence collection and preservationTraining can be time and resource intensive; case consultation with prosecutors may be required to determine the best response to more complicated cases
6Improving veterinarians' abilities to conduct forensic examinationsImproving veterinarians' abilities to conduct forensic examinations...veterinarians are familiar with legal standards of evidenceMost veterinary medicine programs do not include courses in forensics
Responses that Target Offenders
7Providing Humane Education programs to at-risk childrenReduces the likelihood that children will mistreat animals...children are brought into contact with animalsIdentifying children at-risk of animal cruelty can be difficult
8Educating low-level offendersIn cases of unintentional mistreatment, provides offenders with the information needed to properly care for their animals...police adopt the role of an animal welfare educator; police explain why certain practices are dangerous and how to meet the animal's basic needsSome offenders will not follow the advice they are given and some do not have the necessary resources to provide proper care
9Prosecuting offendersIncreases the penalties associated with animal cruelty and may deter others from mistreating animals...used to address only the most egregious cases or those in which the offender has not responded to informal recommendationsAnimal cruelty cases can require specialized evidence collection and expert testimony; caring for and holding animals as evidence may be costly
10Increasing the severity and range of penaltiesIncreases the penalties associated with animal cruelty, addresses the underlying causes of animal cruelty, and may deter others from mistreating animals...financial penalties are used to defray the costs of treating and caring for the animal victims; offenders' contact with animals is severely restrictedSome offenders will be unable to pay fines imposed; sentencing guidelines may not permit significant consequences for cases involving juveniles or first-time offenders
11Counseling and treating more serious offendersAddresses the underlying causes of animal cruelty...the treatment approach is informed by the presence of co-occurring problems (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness); contact with the offender is maintained over a period of time to ensure the problem has not reoccurredMental health professionals who are trained to address animal cruelty can be difficult to locate; offenders may have multiple mental health needs (e.g., substance abuse, history of physical or sexual assault)
Responses that Protect Animal Victims
12Seizing or requiring mistreated animals to be forfeitedProtects victims from further victimization; can prevent excessive holding periods which are a detriment to the animals and a burden to caretakers...police have expertise in seizure and forfeiture laws, which can be complicated and often have short timelines; offenders are required to post bond to cover costs associated with animals care and treatmentIf bond is not required or posted, treating and caring for seized or forfeited animals can be very resource intensive
13Creating foster placements for the pets of domestic violence victimsProtects pets from harm...foster placements have specific procedures for providing veterinary care, owner visitation, security, and confidentialityAligning foster care availability with the needs of clients can be difficult; people willing to foster animals must be actively recruited