Reporting Animal Cruelty and Neglect

What is animal cruelty?

Each state has its own laws to define animal cruelty. Under Vermont law, animal cruelty is associated with or identified by intentional cruelty or abuse or neglect. Associated human behaviors might include knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care; or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal. To learn more about Vermont’s animal cruelty laws, click here.

What should I do if I suspect animal cruelty?

If you suspect a situation involving an animal is in violation of state law, contact the municipal police department where the animal resides and they will guide you as to how to file a complaint. If there is no local law enforcement, and in situations where you believe an animal is in imminent danger and you cannot reach an Animal Control Officer (ACO) or law enforcement agent, contact the Vermont State Police at 802-722-4600 (Vermont State Police Field Stations) or the Sheriff’s Department in the county in which you live . Please note the area code is 802 for all: (Addison 388-2981, Bennington 442-4900, Caledonia 748-6666, Chittenden 863-4341, Essex 676-3500, Franklin 524-2121, Grand Isle 372-4482, Lamoille 888-3502, Orange 685-4875, Orleans 334-3333, Rutland 775-8002, Washington 223-3001, Windham 365-4949, Windsor 457-5211).

Can I report animal cruelty anonymously?


What happens when I report animal cruelty or neglect?

Typically an Animal Control Officer (ACO) handles the investigation. When there is no ACO, then either the Vermont State Police or Sheriff’s Department handles. The ACO or law enforcement should visit the location of the animal owner/keeper who is the subject of the complaint. In many cases, educating the pet owner about how to comply with the law to provide better care for the animal(s) will improve or resolve the situation. When it doesn’t, a ticket may be issued or a search warrant may be obtained. If requested by law enforcement, staff from area shelters and animal welfare organizations will assist them in an investigation. This often includes removing and providing housing and ongoing care for animals seized during an investigation and throughout a criminal case.

How long does it take to investigate a cruelty complaint?

There is no set timeframe to investigate a report. Things may be going on behind the scenes that are not visible to you, to the public.  Law enforcement and ACOs are typically very busy people. It may even take a while for your call to be returned, and in some instances, your call may not be returned. If you have concerns, make another call, send another e-mail, or stop by the police department to ask about the status of your complaint.

How Can I Be More Involved Helping Animals?

  • Familiarize yourself with Vermont’s animal cruelty laws.
  • Find out if your town investigates reports of cruelty and neglect to enforce the laws. If they don’t, work to ensure your town hires and trains an Animal Control Officer.
  • Get to know who in your town or city is responsible for investigating animal cruelty complaints and what the scope of their responsibilities and authority are. Keep their number(s) handy.
  • Report any suspected case of animal cruelty or neglect promptly to the appropriate law enforcement. Have your facts ready: Who, what, when and where.

Additional Resources:

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