How to Report Animal Cruelty

PAWS helps Washington State residents identify and report animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. We do not have an investigation unit, nor do we have legal authority to intervene on behalf of abused and neglected animals, but we can provide resources and support.

If you witness or suspect animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, you should contact animal control immediately. Call 911 if you are witnessing cruelty at the moment. See a list of animal control phone numbers for Western Washington.

Remember that people also can abuse wild animals. If you are witnessing cruelty to wildlife, call 911 or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

What to look for

  • Does the animal have regular access to food, water and shelter?
  • Is her area clear of feces, broken glass or other objects that may do harm or cause illness?
  • Does the animal have open wounds or other injuries that have not been treated?
  • Does the animal have signs of an illness that has not been treated? (Examples include heavy discharge from eyes or nose, rash or bumpy skin, and missing hair.)
  • Have you witnessed someone kicking, beating or otherwise harming the animal?
  • Is the animal's coat extremely matted or his nails severely overgrown?
  • Does the animal appear overly aggressive or timid?


Documenting the incident with photographs or videotape can help in prosecuting the abuser. Your report should be as detailed as possible. You should note dates, times and circumstances. Report them, along with the physical evidence. If you have not directly witnessed cruelty but suspect it, you still should notify animal control.

Reporting cruelty

  • Even if you are not sure that you are observing animal cruelty or neglect, please report it anyway. An animal control officer will make that determination. If no prosecution occurs, at least the officer can educate the person who is caring for the animal in humane treatment.
  • When making your report, ask for the name of the animal control officer and what action is planned. Follow up, and report any change observed in the animal's treatment.
  • Be aware that an investigating officer is not likely to identify the source of the complaint; however should the cruelty suspect be prosecuted, you may be called as a witness. Your concern for the animal should outweigh your concern about having to testify.

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