How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures

Chapter 2. Receiving an Animal Cruelty Complaint


Most of the animal related complaints you receive will stem from violations of Section 353 of the Agriculture & Markets Law which deals with neglect and abuse. They will generally involve the failure to provide proper sustenance which means the animals:

  • are not being fed or watered properly,
  • are lacking an appropriate shelter,
  • are lacking clean air to breathe,
  • living in unsanitary conditions, or
  • needing veterinary care.

Though many complaints will be anonymous, you should still investigate them. Most anonymous complaints are legitimate; people often refuse to give their names because they fear reprisal from their neighbors.

Section 371 of Article 26 of the Agriculture & Markets Law states in part:

“A constable or police officer must, and any agent or officer of any duly incorporated society for the prevention of cruelty to animals may, summon or arrest, and bring before a court or magistrate having jurisdiction, any person offending against any of the provisions of Article 26 of the Agriculture & Markets Law…” (emphasis added)

Questions to ask with regard to animal complaints
Regardless of whether the complaint is anonymous or not, ask the following questions:

  • What is the name and address of the alleged abuser? (Obtain this if at all possible.) Can you describe what he looks like?
  • What types of animals are involved in the complaint, and how many of them are there?
  • Why do you believe the animals are being abused or neglected?
  • Where are the animals confined? an apartment? house? barn? pen? Can the animals be seen from the road side or through a window?
  • When was the last time you saw the animals?
  • What were the weather conditions at the time of the abuse or neglect? Was the weather extremely hot or cold?
  • Are you willing to sign a sworn statement as to what you saw?
  • Do you know of additional witnesses that I can interview?
  • What are the explicit directions to the location of the complaint? (It is expecially important in rural areas to get an exact description of house (its color, one story two story), road, landmarks to get to the property.)

Based on the response to these questions, you can determine the laws which may be being violated and the urgency of the situation.

Is there a time limit to investigate the complaint?
You should investigate the complaint as soon as possible to bring relief to the animals that are suffering.