Thursday, August 23, 2007
The horrifying allegations of animal abuse at Michael Vick's property in Virginia have shocked everyone, but just as heartbreaking are the many similar stories that don't make the news. PETA receives thousands of calls and e-mails every year from people who have witnessed animal abuse or neglect. They are desperate to help but don't know what to do. Here are some steps you can take if you observe cruelty to animals:
Find out which agency is responsible for investigating and enforcing anti-cruelty laws in your state, county, or town. This may be a local humane society or a taxpayer-funded animal shelter. In areas without such organizations, citizens should call the police or sheriff's department.
If an animal is in a life-threatening situation, call authorities immediately. Follow up with them in a timely manner to determine their findings and their planned course of action. If they do not respond right away, call PETA at 757-622-7382.
After you contact authorities, prepare a short written statement detailing the key points of what you observed. Give dates, approximate times, and locations. Timely fact-gathering is crucial—the more time that passes, the greater the risk that evidence will disappear, injuries will heal, or you'll forget specific details. Written statements from other witnesses will help back up your observations, and if possible, take pictures and date them—photos or videos will strengthen your case.
Always keep a dated record of everyone you've contacted, along with the content and outcome of your discussions. Never forward a letter, photograph, or other documentation to anyone without first making a copy for your own files. Make it clear to authorities that you wish to pursue the case and that you are willing to lend your assistance if necessary. Be sure to follow up! If you stay involved, authorities are more likely to do the same.
If the first contact doesn't produce results, go straight to a supervisor. If that doesn't work, appeal to local government officials, such as the mayor, the district attorney, or city council members. A call to the media in your area (television and print) can move mountains. Above all, don't give up—you may be an animal's only hope!
Helping abused or neglected animals can be difficult and heart-wrenching, but they are depending on you to take action. Please contact PETA if officials fail to respond quickly to your complaint or if you need guidance or support. Together, we can save even more lives.
Thank you for everything you do for animals.
Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk