Reporting Equine Abuse or Neglect 

We often get asked what one should do if they suspect equine abuse or neglect and while the answer may seem very simple - call the local animal control or humane society - the process isn’t always that simple.

The fact of the matter is that to be an effective advocate for animals at risk, you must be prepared to commit a potentially substantial amount of time and effort toward achieving some sort of resolution to the suffering. Here are some things that you should do if you suspect equine abuse or neglect:

Report it to the Authorities

Ultimately it is up to the authorities to determine whether or not a particular situation is actionable and this typically involves a thorough investigation, sometimes while the animal remains in the custody of the owner. For this reason, it is imperative that one reports equine neglect or abuse as quickly as possible.

Please review our What to Report page for more detailed information on what to report to the authorities when it comes to equine abuse or neglect or the Who to Call page for who to contact.

Get to Know Animal Control Officers

Befriend animal control/humane officers assigned to the case and keep in touch with them. They are your most important resource and can provide, among other things, insight into protocol. They can also advise you regarding the tools at your disposal and, perhaps most importantly, they can tell you what their limitations are.

Please remember to be professional, courteous, patient and, above all, persistent. Dealing with county or state agencies charged with the welfare of animals can be an enormously frustrating process, even when working with officials that are doing everything in their power to rectify the situation. This is especially important when you are emotionally invested in the situation and can see that time is of the essence. Take detailed notes of your conversations, the names of people with whom you spoke, dates, and times. Get them to open a file, investigate, and monitor the situation.

Be Persistent

Call early, call often! Follow-up is essential in any neglect situation. You'd be amazed at how common it is for a case to fall through the cracks. For instance, efforts to aid a starving horse could be significantly delayed because animal control saw that law enforcement had an open file so it closed its files; the trouble with this is that law enforcement could see that animal control has an open file and decide to close theirs with neither agency discussing the matter. Unfortunately instances like this happens, be vigilant.

Educate Yourself

Be your own advocate and familiarize yourself with local ordinances and state laws relating to animal abuse and neglect. Ask for copies from animal control and law enforcement agencies or search the Internet. Connect with local equine rescue agencies for information and assistance as well. Click here for more information on Chapter 16.52 RCW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Utilize Media

Keep in mind that the media can be a useful ally in your attempts to rescue an animal. Contact the local "troubleshooter", "human interest", or "environmental" reporter. The power of the public hue and cry over such stories can pay big dividends.

Again, a number of factors determine whether a case constitutes equine neglect or abuse however, this is ultimately a matter for the authorities. Any suspected equine neglect or abuse should be reported to local law enforcement (animal control agencies or sheriff’s department) for investigation in order to make sure it is properly reviewed.

The bottom line is that you need to arm you with information and not become discouraged or give up. There are a vast number of people out there working on behalf of animals in need, but remember, despite their apparent numbers, they are a rare breed. Count yourself among them and never lose sight of the nobility of what you are trying to accomplish.

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