Cruelty | Neglect Complaints

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors from neglect to malicious harm. Most cases of cruelty are unintentional neglect that can be resolved through educating owners and providing some resources.

Intentional cruelty or abuse is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care; or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.

The state of Vermont has specific definitions of animal cruelty, as well as a process for reporting incidents. To learn more about Vermont’s animal cruelty laws visit:

Often what we would like to see is not what the law requires. It is legal in Vermont to leave an animal outside on a chain, day or night. The statutes dictate access to shelter, food, water and exercise as well as length of the chain, but not that the animal come in for the evening, even on cold Vermont nights. As a non-profit, the Windham County Humane Society does not have the ability to write tickets or enforce laws. We can provide resources to pet owners and help them comply with laws and provide better care for their pets.

Reporting animal cruelty and neglect

Please file your complaint with the Animal Control Officer (ACO) for the town or with the law enforcement agency (LEA) that serves the town where the animal is residing. View a list of ACO’s for towns in Windham County.

If an animal is in immediate danger and you cannot reach an Animal Control Officer or a local law enforcement agency, please contact the Vermont State Police at 802-722-4600 or the Windham County Sheriff’s Department at 802-365-4942.

What happens when I report animal cruelty or neglect?

When an animal cruelty or neglect report is made, the town’s ACO or law enforcement agency should visit the animal owner who is the subject of the complaint. In most cases, the ACO first tries to rectify the situation by educating the pet owner about how to provide better care for the animal(s). If the situation does not improve, a ticket may be issued or a search warrant may be obtained. Law enforcement and ACO’s are very busy so you may not get a call back. Investigating a report can take time, so don’t expect to see immediate change. You can remain anonymous anytime you register a report of cruelty or neglect.

What can I do to help?

  • Educate yourself about Vermont’s animal cruelty laws (see links above).
  • Report any suspected case of animal cruelty or neglect to the appropriate agency. Do your research first – an ACO cannot investigate if they don’t have an accurate address.
  • Be active at the town level. Real cruelty or neglect is a crime and, as such, needs to be investigated by law enforcement or an Animal Control Officer. Find out if your town has the means to investigate reports of cruelty and neglect and to enforce the laws. If they don’t, work to ensure your town hires and trains an Animal Control Officer.
  • Much of animal neglect is due to a lack of resources on the part of the owner and is unintentional. This is where the Windham County Humane Society can step in to help. If you see a pet owner struggling to care for their pet, please direct them to our Pet Care Assistance Program. If they do not have access to the internet, they can stop by our shelter in Brattleboro to complete an application or request one be mailed to them.

Where to File a Complaint:

Cruelty|Neglect complaints are handled locally in each town.