Reporting Farm Animal Abuse

The past 100 years have seen startling changes in our laws that might have once seemed revolutionary, proving the necessary adaptability of our legal system to changing needs and information. For example, as we learned about the threats posed to all life by chemical and sewage dumped in our air and waterways, an entire new field of law, environmental law, was created to regulate the threat and to protect lives.

Nevertheless, despite the groundbreaking leaps forward in our understanding of the intelligence and rich emotional and social lives of nonhuman animals, animals are still defined within the United States legal system as property — more akin to inanimate objects than living beings. (Aldf.org)

We as vegans understand that nothing could be farther from the truth.  

If you witness farm animal abuse, you can report it to local law enforcement and alert farm animal advocacy groups.  While presently there may be little that can be done to end farm animal abuse legally, your actions could raise community awareness and shine a light on those responsible.

Factory farming — industrial facilities where large numbers of farm animals are raised — cause most farm animal suffering and abuse. Unsanitary conditions require animals be dosed with antibiotics; misuse, overuse, and dependence on antibiotics creates potential for development and spread of dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria.

We understand that reporting farm animal abuse can be a very emotional, confusing and frustrating experience. FARM has compiled information to assist anyone witnessing animal abuse or neglect and willing to report it to the authorities or to an organization with the resources to take action and investigate the matter.

PETA – National hotline 757.622.7382

WeTip – For states where farm animals are protected by state laws 800.78.CRIME

Mercy For Animals – 866-632-6446  Option#4 for farm animal abuse

HSUS –  888-209-7177

Animal Outlook – 1-800-65-FARM TIPS

Before filing your report, gather as much information as possible.

Document:

  • Location of abuse (landmarks, cross-roads/intersections}
  • Name of the farm (if available)
  • Dates and times abuse was witnessed
  • Video(s) if possible

Make sure you have sufficient information and/or evidence for the police. Also, try to find out if the observed abuse violates a state law or local ordinance.

  • Print out any relevant state laws being violated so you can show it to law enforcement.
  • Law enforcement officers may be more inclined to investigate the situation if they know specifically which law(s) is being violated.
  • Without trespassing and if you can do so safely, take photos of the animals or the conditions of their confinement. 
  • Understand how the animals you’ve observed being abused are classified. Cities, states, and counties have different laws regarding the treatment of companion animals as opposed to animals classified as farmed animals or livestock.
  • Regardless of the animal’s classification, certain acts generally are forbidden, including kicking or punching an animal or neglecting the animal by failing to provide adequate food, water, or veterinary care.
  • Generally, livestock includes any animals that are being kept for consumption of byproducts, such as dairy cattle. In contrast, farmed animals are animals raised for slaughter.

Locate the appropriate law enforcement agency. The law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to investigate the situation typically will be the one located in the city or county where the abuse is taking place.

  • Within city limits, you typically must use the municipal police department. Out in the county, you probably should use the sheriff’s department.
  • Keep in mind that farm animal conditions also may violate health and safety ordinances, in which case you would need to file your report with the local department of health.

Livestock Cruelty Resource
https://www.animallaw.info/topic/table-reporting-animal-cruelty-united-states#q6

USDA map “by state” of law enforcement agencies to contact about farm animal abuse
https://nationalaglawcenter.org/state-compilations/animal-cruelty/

File your report. Typically you’ll want to visit the police station so you can file your report in person and speak with an officer face to face about the farm animal abuse you’ve observed. Bring along any evidence you have.

  • Provide as many facts about the situation as you can. Include your name and contact information in the report so investigators know how to reach you.
  • If you made copies of laws you believe are being violated, take those along as well. Be prepared for the officer who takes your report to say there’s nothing that can be done about it.
  • Make sure you get a written copy of the report before you leave. You can use the reference number on the report to call and check the status of your report or provide additional information.

Cooperate with any investigation. If police officers choose to investigate the situation based on your report, they may have additional questions or need assistance from you. Make sure you’ve provided contact information so they can contact you if necessary.

  • Law enforcement generally have discretion over whether to investigate reports and the extent to which they investigate them. You may have to be persistent to get results.
  • Keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of the investigation, prosecutors also have broad discretion regarding whether to file charges in any given case. Filing a report is no guarantee that the abusers will be brought to justice.
  • However, in the event the prosecutor does elect to file charges, they typically will need to contact you to discuss the possibility of using you as a witness in the case.

Locate the appropriate Humane Society office. Some states delegate investigation of animal cruelty cases to the state Humane Society or SPCA. However, in more rural areas there may only be one office covering several counties.

  • You can use the map link below to find the appropriate office. Look for the map at the website’s Animal Welfare Information Center, and click on “I want to report suspected animal cruelty or neglect.”

https://nationalaglawcenter.org/state-compilations/animal-cruelty/

  • Go to the Humane Society’s office or visit their website to confirm the classes of animals over which they have jurisdiction. Some humane societies only handle animal cruelty cases involving companion animals, not farmed animals or livestock.

Collect information for your report. You need to gather as much information as you safely can about the perpetrators of the farm animal abuse and what is taking place. The more evidence you have, the more likely the Humane Society will be able to investigate the matter.

  • Take photos of the animals and the conditions in which they are being kept if you can do so safely and without trespassing on private property.
  • If photos aren’t practical, write descriptions of what you’ve seen. You might consider asking others to serve as witnesses and confirm your observations.
  • While laws differ among states, certain acts are typically illegal, including overt acts of violence such as kicking or punching an animal. Denying adequate food, water, or veterinary care also can lead to criminal prosecution.

File your report. You may want to call the Humane Society office and  speak to someone about the farm animal abuse you’ve observed. The state humane society typically accepts suspected cruelty complaints through a toll-free hotline or email.

  • Keep in mind, if you file your report outside of the office’s normal business hours, it may take a day or two for them to receive your report.
  • Include as many factual details in your report as possible, including the dates and times of your observations. If you observed the abuse on multiple occasions, provide such information for each time.
  • Be as accurate as possible, and don’t guess. For example, if you observed farm animal abuse at some point in the morning, but don’t remember the exact time, don’t just make up a time – give a range of hours or say “before noon.”

Follow up on your report. After you’ve filed your report, make yourself available to investigators looking into the situation. Try to get contact information about the person in charge of the investigation so you can contact them directly if there are any new developments.

  • If you filed your report outside of business hours, call the office on the next business day to confirm that your report was received.
  • Ask for a written copy of your report if you filed it over the phone.

Contact nonprofit animal rights organizations. Even if you can’t get help from law enforcement, there are many nonprofit organizations dedicated to animal rights and taking action to stop animal cruelty.

  • You can search online for animal rights organizations and find out if they have a hotline or online form through which you can report farm animal abuse.
  • The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a national hotline you can use to report farm animal abuse and cruelty. The Society offers a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who commits farm animal abuse. To report farm animal abuse to the HSUS, call 1-888-209-7177.

Most local news stations have an investigative reporter who looks into situations in the area based on tips from viewers like you. Watch a broadcast or visit your local broadcast news affiliate’s website to find out how to submit information.

Typically you can call the station’s hotline, or send a story through email. If you submit your tip online, you may be able to upload any documents or photos that support your statements.  Keep in mind that the station has absolute discretion over which stories it pursues, and you typically won’t receive any response if the station decides to pass on your story.

  • You may be able to send an email or call to follow up on your tip and ask if the station intends to investigate the situation, but don’t be a pest. If the station tells you it has declined to investigate the tip you sent, try again with a different station or news outlet.

If you were unable to do anything about the farm animal abuse you’ve observed because there’s no law that prohibits it, you can advocate for a change in the law to end farm animal cruelty.

  • You can find contact information for local or state representatives on the government’s website.
  • Keep your letter short and to the point. Describe the situation you’ve observed, and tell the elected official exactly what he or she can do to help the animals.
  • You may be able to find a form letter on the website of a nonprofit animal rights organization to use as a guide, but make sure you personalize your letter and tailor it to the specific situation you’ve observed – don’t just parrot the language in the form letter.

If there’s legislation currently pending that would result in stiffer penalties for the abuse you’ve observed, mention it specifically and ask the elected official to support and vote for it.

Coordinating a public event requires significant time and effort, but if you’re up to the task you can stage your own protest or rally to speak out against farm animal abuse and raise community awareness about the issue.

  • Plan ahead and choose your location carefully. Find out the rules for public demonstrations and whether you need to get a permit.
  • You may want to meet with others before the event is scheduled to take place. Make sure everyone participating has an understanding of the goals of the protest.
  • When choosing a location, you might do some research to find out if there are local restaurants or grocery stores that sell or use products from the farm engaging in animal abuse.
  • Staging a protest at one of these locations can be very effective in raising awareness of farm animal abuse, and if you get the restaurant or grocery store to stop using or selling those products, you cut into the abusive owner’s profits.

Credit: Information adapted from WikiHow article by Jennifer Mueller, JD

FARM maintains several websites promoting an ethical vegan lifestyle and vegan diet: