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Animal cruelty and neglect

Learn how to spot animal cruelty, and find out what you can do about it.


If you ever witness animal cruelty, stay away from the abuser for your own safety. If you can, try to get photos or videos for evidence. Contact animal control and the police right away.

Obvious forms of animal abuse include:

  • choking and kicking
  • drowning
  • putting rubber bands on limbs, and
  • setting tails on fire.

Animal abuse is a serious claim. Before you contact the police, make sure you’re certain of what happened. For example, you may think your neighbor is abusing their dog because it's always out in the yard without food. But, there could be food in an area you can't see, or your neighbor might feed the dog at odd hours.


Studies show that often, animals are abused by parents who also abuse their children or spouse. The children might show signs of aggression, which can lead to criminal activity when they get older.

If a child is abusing an animal, it's likely a sign that there are other forms of abuse going on in the home. Contact us right away at 617-635-5348. Our officers are trained to spot signs of child abuse as well as animal abuse.


Neglecting an animal is a form of abuse. Neglect can be:

  • forgetting to groom a dog
  • forgetting to change its collar
  • leaving it in the backyard with no shelter or water, or
  • any other failure to care for its basic needs.

Prevent animal cruelty and neglect by educating yourself and others on how to properly care for pets. We've also listed out some other forms of animal cruelty below.

  • Still have questions? Contact:
    Animal Care and Control
  • Need to know
    • If you suspect an animal is being abused or neglected, contact us at 617-635-5348, or email us at
    • Call 911 for the fastest response time and to detain someone mistreating an animal in a public space.

Types of cruelty and neglect

Animal abuse comes in many forms. Learn how to identify different types of abuse, and find out how you can help prevent it.


Dog fights and cock fights are contests in which two dogs or roosters fight to the death. Fighting animals are trained from birth to attack and be vicious. A fighting dog may:

  • show aggression toward other dogs, and display attack behaviors
  • not be as social and may be hard to "read"
  • show aggression toward people, though this is not common
  • have wounds and scars around the neck, face, and legs
  • have torn or damaged ears, or
  • have a heavy chain as a collar.

There are often other crimes associated with animal fighting, like gambling and drug trafficking.  Animal fighting is a felony in 42 states, including Massachusetts. If you know of anyone involved in this crime, contact us or the police immediately.

Owning a rooster or other farm animal is illegal in Boston. Call us right away if you know of anyone who owns farm animals. We'll find the animals a proper home.


We get calls every summer about people leaving pets in hot cars. Even 10 - 15 minutes is enough to reach 160 degrees in a car. This can cause heat stroke, brain damage, and even death. If you see an animal in a hot car:

  1. call us right away and, if possible, get the animal out of the car
  2. offer the animal lukewarm water
  3. soak a towel or rag and put it on the animal's neck
  4. keep the animal in a shaded area and look out for heavy panting, and
  5. take the animal to a vet if doesn’t get better.

Animal hoarders collect more animals than they can handle. The animals overrun the house and defecate wherever they want. It’s a huge health hazard to people and animals living in the house and neighborhood.


A young animal will grow into its collar if it's not replaced. Embedded collars can cause infections, strangulation, and death. They usually have to be surgically removed. It's also common in long-haired animals when the collar isn't easy to see.


Mange is caused by parasitic mites that cause painful itching. The animal will suffer from hair loss and sores from scratching and biting all the time. The sores can cause secondary infections if left untreated. Some forms of mange are contagious to people.


Long-haired animals need a lot of grooming to keep from getting matted. If neglected, The mats get worse as time goes on and cause painful sores and infections. Massive matting is a form of neglect and you should report it right away.


Unfortunately, we see starvation cases all the time — animals that can barely walk because they are so weak. Starvation can be caused by a lack of food and water, or by an untreated disease, parasites, or improper food.


Untreated wounds can get infected and cause many other health issues. The wound can become infested with maggots, cause horrible pain, and eventually result in death. If you're ever unsure of how to treat a wounded animal, contact a vet right away.

  • Still have questions? Contact:
    Animal Care and Control
  • Need to know
    • If you suspect an animal is being abused or neglected, contact us at 617-635-5348, or email us at
    • Call 911 for the fastest response time and to detain someone mistreating an animal in a public space.
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