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VACTF Manual: Chapter 3 - Investigating an Animal Cruelty Complaint

Some Common Excuses You Will Hear

Here are some excuses and fabrications you may hear from people when they are confronted about neglect or outright cruelty. Be aware that in many cases, the person says what he does in an effort to avoid being punished. The assumption in the situations below is that there is neglect that must be addressed, but the animal is not in danger of losing its life.

Situation 1 - Thin animal

The truth is that the animal is not being fed enough or has a serious case of internal parasites.


  • Oh, I guess we take him on too many walks. He must be getting too much exercise.
  • He's always been a thin dog.
  • The cat is such a fussy eater lately.
  • His mother was thin, too.
  • Oh, you should have seen him when we got him. He's put on a lot of weight since then.
  • We've had him to the vet's, and he's being treated. (This may or may not be true, and must be checked out as soon as possible.)

Your possible responses:

  • Where and when did you get the animal?
    If the person tells you where they got the animal, consider checking with that person or place as to the condition of the animal when it was given to the person.

  • Who is your veterinarian? When did you last have the animal examined?
    If they give you the name of the veterinarian, consider checking with the veterinarian to see when the animal was last seen and its condition at that time.

  • When do you plan to have him examined?
    Make sure the person gives you a reasonable time frame within the next few days. Check with the veterinarian to ensure the animal was seen and to determine the veterinarian's opinion of the animal.

  • How much food do you give the animal every day?
    When they respond with the amount of food they give the animal, consider telling them that given the condition of the animal, that amount of food does not appear to be adequate.

Situation 2 - Dog Outside

No water available or water bowl dry. The truth is the dog has not been given water.

He must have drank it all. I gave him a big bowl this morning.

Your possible response:
Get a bigger bowl.

Every time I give him water, he throws it up.
The truth is the dog has water so rarely that he gulps it greedily and throws it up.

Your possible response:
That means he is not getting enough water.

He knocks over that water bowl all the time.

Your possible response:
Get a bowl that doesn't tip over.

Situation 3 - Dog Outside

No shelter available and the weather is either extremely hot or cold. The truth is that the dog is kept outside all the time.


  • Oh, John (or whomever) must have forgotten to let him back in. We always bring him in.
  • We just put him outside for some air.
  • He always comes in at night.

Your possible responses:

  • Check back at different times of the day to see if animal is outside.
  • Interview the neighbors as to when they see the dog outside.

NOTE: If the weather conditions have the potential to be harmful to the animal, you can order them to bring the animal inside.

Situation 4 - Dogs fighting

Two or more people are standing next to two dogs fighting. The truth is they had bets on their dogs and were fighting them.

I was just standing here talking to my friend, and his dog attacked mine. I swear it.

Your possible response:
Make careful notes as to what you observed. If the dogs just happened to get into a fight, the persons should have been trying to break it up. If they were not, consider charging them with animal fighting (Title 13, Section 352 (5)). NOTE: Animal fighting is a felony.

If you do not have enough to charge them now, get ID and make notes. If the dogs are pit bulls, you will most likely see them fighting the dogs again.

Situation 5 - Injured Dog

A dog is bloodied or hurt; you suspect the owner hit him.


  • I let him out and he got in a fight with a dog down the street.
  • He just fell down the stairs.

Your possible responses:

  • Get medical attention for your dog immediately.
  • Call the veterinarian later to get a report. Interview the neighbors to see if they saw the owner beating the dog. If so, attempt to obtain statements from them.
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