What Constitutes Abuse?

What is abuse/neglect?
Abuse of animals could be defined many ways depending in which context you are speaking and to whom.  In Webster’s dictionary abuse is defined as; to hurt by treating badly; mistreatment; causing injury.
Neglect is defined in Webster’s as; not to care for sufficiently or properly; slight; to treat as unimportant, through carelessness or by intention.

Who do I call to file a complaint?
The most important act you can take is to report animal cruelty to your local law enforcement.  In some cities, this may be animal control or a department of Humane Law Enforcement, while in other areas the police or sheriff’s department may be the agency in charge of these sorts of crimes.

If you witness animal cruelty in progress and do not know the number to the appropriate agency, CALL 911.  Animal cruelty is a CRIME, and the police dispatcher will be able to determine which department should respond.

What information does a humane investigator/animal control officer need in order to investigate animal neglect/abuse/cruelty?

  • The exact address or a very good description of where the animal(s) can be located.
  • What you perceive the problem to be – how long it has been going on etc.
  • What you personally witnessed or the name of the person who told you and their telephone number if possible.
  • A good description of the animal in question.

While it may not be necessary, the investigator may need your name, address, and telephone number if:

  1. A warrant will be needed in order to view the animal.
  2. The investigator needs to contact you for more information.

Do NOT attempt to deal with the crime yourself.  The authorities are there to help you, and the sooner they are involved, the better.

Washington State Laws
Follow the links below to read the full, official language of Washington State’s animal cruelty laws. (RCW means Revised Code of Washington)

  • RCW 16.52.205 Animal cruelty in the first degree
  • RCW 16.52.207 Animal cruelty in the second degree (includes animal abandonment)
  • RCW 16.52.100 Legal intervention by others to help animals without food or water

Animal Cruelty Punishments
Animal cruelty in the first degree:

  • Class C Felony
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Imprisonment up to  5 years

Animal cruelty in the second degree (except section: (2)(c):

  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine up to $1,000
  • Imprisonment up to 90 days

Animal cruelty in the second degree (section (2)(c)-If animal is abandoned and suffers bodily harm or is at substantial risk for suffering bodily harm:

  • Gross Misdemeanor
  • Fine up to $5,000
  • Imprisonment up to 1 years

Other Resources
Washington State Legislature website
Animal Welfare Information Center

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