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Few people know what to do when they see or hear about suspected animal abuse or neglect.

With some of the heavy-handed training tips and ideas sprinkled across the internet the first question we need to ask is- What does animal abuse look like?

An obvious answer to that question would be if we observed physical abuse of the animal by a person.

Maybe the animal shows extreme fear of the person and has new or old injuries. Is the animal limping? Does it cringe when near the person?

Is the animal extremely thin? Is it regularly left alone for long periods of time without food or water? Is it is confined to a crate most of the day and not let outside when the owner returns home? Is the crate too small for the animal to stand up or turn around?

Another question we need to ask when thinking about animal abuse is this; what does neglect look like?

Does the animal you observed have heavily matted fur, long overgrown nails, or a filthy, smelly coat? Does it always have fleas, ticks, or other parasites? Is there a heavy discharge from its eyes or nose?

Is the collar it is wearing so tight it is causing a wound around the animal’s neck? Are there visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness?

Signs of neglect could also be that the animal is living in filthy conditions (maybe among feces, urine, garbage, broken glass) or is chained outside all the time without enough food, water, or shelter to sustain its health.

There may also be strong odors of urine, ammonia, fecal matter and perhaps even mold or decay.

The home or yard is typically overcrowded with all kinds of animals in small cages and pens.

These are some of the signs, but they may not be all the signs. Use your own sense of something being wrong to investigate a possible abuse or neglect case further.

Local animal welfare organizations are usually independent with their own boards and anti-cruelty law enforcement powers. City or county animal control officers are empowered to enforce cruelty laws, but sometimes they are not – and sometimes they are limited in the scope of which specific laws or species they are allowed to help with.

How to find support – who is the first and best contact for suspected animal abuse

Be prepared to provide your name, contact information, physical address of property, description of animal(s), and an explanation of suspected harm to the animal.

The ASPCA recommends these steps:

  • A written, factual statement of what you observed—giving dates and approximate times if possible—for law enforcement.
  • Photographs of the animals in question and the surrounding area. Note: do not put yourself in danger! Do Not enter another person’s property without permission and use caution around unfamiliar animals who are frightened or in pain.
  • If possible, provide law enforcement with names and contact information of other people who might have firsthand information about the situation.
  • Yes, it is possible to file an anonymous report, but please consider providing your information. The case is more likely to be pursued when there are witnesses willing to stand behind their report and, if necessary, testify in court.

Remember to keep a record of who you contacted, the date, copies of any documents you provided to law enforcement or animal control and what you discussed. If you do not receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, make a polite follow-up call to inquire about the investigation.

For animals in Madison County call the Madison County Animal Shelter 828-649-3190

Here is a link to the Madison County Board of Commissioners. You can contact them regarding any current laws concerning animals you would like to see changed.

For animals in Buncombe County call Buncombe County Animal Control 828-250-6670
Asheville Animal Services 828-252-1110
Biltmore Forest Police Dept. 828-274-0822
Black Mountain Buncombe County Animal Control 828-250-6670
Montreat Police Dept. 828-419-9350
Woodfin Police Dept. 828-253-4889
Weaverville Police Dept. 828-645-5700

For animals in Haywood County call Haywood County Animal Services 828-456-5338

In Mitchell County call the Mitchell Co. Sheriff’s Office 828-688-2139 x1636

In Yancey County call the Yancey Co. Sheriff’s Office 828-682-2124

STATEWIDE: Call the N.C. Attorney General’s Animal Welfare Hotline 855-290-6915



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