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VACTF Manual: Chapter 4 - Common Complaints

Physical Abuse


The reasons that people beat animals vary.

  • A person may be angry at a dog for displaying inappropriate behavior and begin beating him.
  • A person may take his or her own frustrations or anger out on an animal by kicking it, shooting it, or hitting it with an object.
  • In more sinister cases (sometimes involving drug dealers) the person may be beating a dog to "make it mean" because he thinks he can use the animal or sell it as a guard dog.

The abuse varies in degree and severity of results, but any kind of abuse is illegal.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

If the person is still beating the animal when you arrive, the situation is obvious. In other cases, by the time you arrive, the beating may have stopped. The animal may have marks, welts, or blood on him. He may be limping or whimpering, or doing a combination of these things.

What to do

  1. If you see the beating still going on when you arrive, consider entering the property if you have appropriate law enforcement assistance with you, because a crime is being committed and exigent circumstances exist. (See also pg 10 in chapter 1, Be Prepared Ahead of Time, "Key Concepts")
    1. Seize the animal for evidence and seek medical treatment. Call the animal control officer or humane agency to take the animal to a veterinarian for treatment.

    2. Obtain a signed statement from the veterinarian as to the condition of the animal.

    3. After removing the animal, take photographs of the animal for evidence.

    4. Apply for a search warrant to seize any instrumentalities used in the beating and to photograph the scene of the crime.

    5. You can charge the person with cruelty under Title 13, Section 352.

    - OR -

  2. If, when you arrive, you do not see the animal or the person who was reportedly doing the beating, consider doing the following:

    1. Obtain statements from any witnesses or neighbors who may have witnessed the beating.

    2. Find the person who was reportedly doing the beating and examine the animal.

    3. If the person does not allow you to see the animal, but you have a signed statement from a witness or you have seen some evidence that makes you believe the animal has been beaten, or both, you can obtain a search warrant to seize the animal.

    4. If when you execute the search warrant, you find the animal has been beaten, call the humane society or animal control and have them take the animal to a veterinarian.

    5. Take photographs of the animal at the scene and/or at the veterinarian's office. Obtain a signed statement from the veterinarian indicating that the animal has been beaten and the animal's condition. Take photographs of the scene and seize any objects used in the beating.

    6. You can charge the person with cruelty under Title 13, Section 352.

NOTE: With regard to dogs, exercise caution if you arrest the individual at the scene, as a dog may attack an officer who is arresting its owner.

Example 7 - Physical Abuse

The Complaint
A complainant called the local humane agency and reported that an individual who lived nearby had kicked a neighborhood cat. The complainant added that this was not the first time this individual had kicked the cat.

The Response

  1. The investigator investigated the complaint and interviewed the complainant who stated that he saw the individual kick a cat from his (the individual's) front porch. The cat landed on the sidewalk. The complainant stated that he had told the individual not to do this. The individual responded by saying that the cat's owners should keep the cat at home and that the complainant could call someone if he wanted to. The complainant signed a statement relating these facts to the investigator.

  2. Based on signed complaint, the investigator went to the individual's house and issued him a citation.

Charges Brought
The individual involved was charged with a violation of Title 13, Section 352.

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