How to Report Zoo or Circus Animal Abuse

Two Parts:Reporting to the Federal GovernmentGathering Evidence of Abuse

No animal should be abused, and this is equally true of animals in circuses or zoos. Unfortunately, abuse is not uncommon. Circus and zoo employees can abuse animals by striking them but also by denying them food or water over a long period of time. If you think a circus or zoo has abused an animal, then you should document the abuse or injuries as much as you can. Then you should find the appropriate government agency and report that you suspect abuse.

Part 1
Reporting to the Federal Government

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    Find the website for Animal Care. The federal United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) runs an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service called “Animal Care.” They run a website with an online complaint form you can use.[1]
    • You can report suspected abuse of any animal covered by the Animal Welfare Act or the Horse Protection Act. The Animal Welfare Act covers all animals displayed publicly, which includes those shown in zoos and circuses.[2]
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    Complete the complaint form. The form will ask for the following information. You should gather it ahead of time so that you can complete the form in one sitting:[3]
    • the date of the incident
    • the location of the incident
    • the types of animals abused
    • how the animals behaved
    • what condition the animals were in
    • the condition of the facility
    • the actions of the people with the animals
    • the name of the USDA licensee or registrant (if known)
    • the licensee or registration number (if known)
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    Choose whether to report anonymously. Although you can report anonymously, you should consider giving your name.[4] USDA cannot contact you to follow up if you report anonymously. You should consider giving your name if you have documented evidence USDA could use in a prosecution.
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    Find your own agency outside the U.S. If you want to report animal cruelty or abuse in a circus or zoo outside the United States, then you should find your government agency that investigates allegations of abuse. To find the agency, you can search “report animal abuse” and “your country” in your favorite search engine.
    • In Canada, you should contact your province’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). There should be a hotline you can call.[5]
    • In Australia, you can also contact your territory’s RSPCA.[6]
    • If you can’t find the agency you are supposed to report to, then you might want to contact People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has chapters around the world.[7] They can listen to your complaint and then reach out to the appropriate government office.

Part 2
Gathering Evidence of Abuse

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    Write down your memories. As soon as possible, you should take some time to write out what you remember of the incident. Make sure that your narrative contains relevant identifying information, such as the following:[8]
    • the name of the person committing the abuse
    • a physical description of the abuser, if you don’t know their name
    • any conversation that you had with the abuser
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    Get names of any witnesses. If other people saw the abuse or cruelty, then you should take down their contact information. Animal Care might need to contact them. Gather the following information:[9]
    • name
    • address
    • telephone number
    • email (if available)
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    Take pictures or video, if possible. Ideally, you can capture the abuse on video or, at a minimum, take pictures of the conditions of the animals.[10] Many smart phones now have the ability to take pictures or record short digital videos.
    • After taking digital pictures or video, be sure to download and save them to your hard drive. You don’t want to accidentally erase the evidence.
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    Keep copies of any relevant records. You might be a veterinarian who was called in to treat an animal. You could suspect that the injury was caused by abuse. If so, hold onto copies of all reports that verify the animal’s injuries.[11]

Article Info

Categories: Animal Welfare Activism | Abuse