Abuse & Neglect

What to do if you suspect an animal is abused or neglected:

Get as much information as possible. Try to find out the condition of the animal, their living conditions and the address where the animal is kept. Call Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at (831) 454-7200. You can remain confidential, but it is important to leave your name and number in case the officer has trouble locating the animal or for follow-ups in the future.

Once a complaint has been lodged, an officer will investigate. If animal cruelty charges are filed, fines and/or jail time could be assigned, and the animal may be able to be re-homed into a loving family.

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter enforces California Penal Code 597 which make it illegal to abuse or neglect an animal. If you feel that an animal is being neglected or abused, please contact the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at (831) 454-7200.

What is animal abuse?
Sometimes abuse of an animal is obvious, but often it is the less obvious neglect cases that are seen in our own neighborhoods. For instance, a dog left in the backyard with no shelter or a cat living in an unsanitary environment. It is these cases of neglect where we rely on you to step forward and report these crimes.

Abuse violations - torture, torment, mutilation, cruel beating and cruel killing - take many forms. Torment need not be physical in nature; an animal can be tormented by baiting or teasing, or a pattern of intimidation by yelling or threatening physical harm.

Serious physical abuse, if not witnessed, may be hard to detect because the physical evidence, such as bruising and abrasions, may be hidden by hair. Visible evidence of physical abuse includes limping, swelling, bloody urine and broken teeth. Hand shyness, timidity, cowering and fear biting are behaviors symptomatic of abuse, particularly if the animal exhibits these behaviors in the presence of the abuser.


The ideal shelter is always the shelter provided by a house or building.The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter does not recommend housing an animal outside. If an animal is outside, the animal should have a weatherproof shelter that is small enough such that the animal can warm it with his body heat. During the winter months, an entry flap will also keep out the cold air and wind. Bedding materials such as hay, straw or wood shavings are recommended as they stay warm and dry whereas blankets often get wet.

If you know of a dog that needs shelter, the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter often has dog houses available for pickup. The shelter also accepts donated dog houses and will distribute them to those dogs in need.

Animals must be provided with nutritious food in sufficient quantity every day. An animal's physical condition is the best indicator of proper diet. If an animal appears underweight, it is probably not receiving enough food. A long or un-groomed coat may hide a severely malnourished condition.

Animals must have access to clean water at all times.

Veterinary Care
Veterinary care must be provided for animals showing symptoms of disease or illness. An animal that has been injured or appears to be in pain must be provided with immediate veterinary care.

Space, Sanitation, Air and Light
Exercise space that is of sufficient size and kept in a clean, healthful manner must be provided. Continual confinement in areas that are small or dark, filthy with trash and fecal accumulation, or have a strong odor is unacceptable.

Chaining is an illegal form of confinement in California. It often causes health and behavior problems. Recommended confinement includes confinement in a securely fenced yard or pen of adequate size, or house confinement with outdoor exercise.

Collars should be loose enough to allow at least two fingers to slide easily between the collar and neck. A collar that is too tight can cause severe injury and pain.

Animals with coats requiring grooming must be groomed as needed to avoid matting and skin problems. A matted, filthy hair coat indicates an animal is not receiving proper daily care.


They rely on YOU!
When Sparky's prior owner fell ill, and no family members were able to take him in, he found himself alone in a backyard. The seasons passed and the poor little guy nearly gave up.
Neighbors were kind enough to call in their concerns about him being chained-up with little shelter. The family he was living with admitted they didn’t really have time for a dog and weren’t interested in caring for him.

Sparky running freeHe was surrendered to the Shelter where we found out he had been in our care before. He quickly went from depressed to elated and is now perky and hopeful that this time he’ll find the right someone to love him and care for him as he so deserves.

Two officers responded to a report of a neglected rabbit living in a small cage. They found a wild jackrabbit being kept in a small dog crate. The crate had approx ½-1 inch of feces covering the bottom, and the rabbit had sores and urine scalding. The animal was owner surrendered. We transferred the animal to Native Animal Rescue who took over care and treatment. 

mistreated rabbitThis was a wild animal, suffering under neglect due to ignorance of the animal’s needs.The officers transported the hare to Native Animal Rescue for possible rehabilitation.

Education is the answer to preemptively stop this sort of abuse and neglect. We are grateful for our partners at Native Animal Rescue for the work they do rehabilitating and educating all year round!