Animal cruelty risk levels

The good news- the majority of cases investigated by animal control officers and animal welfare investigators do not involve animal cruelty and many are addressed through education and follow-up rather than the filing of criminal charges. Cases involving significant neglect and/or animal cruelty are criminal and require close scrutiny and comprehensive investigation and evaluation to identify the specific factors necessary to determine level of public safety risk a particular individual may present to both animals and humans. From a Link perspective it is also critical to look at the “big picture” regarding the status of the environment in regards to both humans and animals. While a particular animal welfare investigation may appear as a lower level neglect case  there may be significant factors present that would warrant cross reporting to other agencies such as child or adult protection services, law enforcement or other community agencies.

The following evidence informed risk profiles can serve as a framework for first responders, investigators, evaluators, courts and intervention specialists to think about the risk a specific individual may pose to animals and the public. The checklist can be used as an screening tool to assist field investigators with initial decision making , but should not be considered a replacement for a comprehensive animal cruelty evaluation.


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Investigators or observers of animal maltreatment are encouraged to always cross report when they have suspicions that the nature of neglect or callousness towards animals may also be affecting the welfare of vulnerable persons in that environment. At minimum, a second opinion or consult with an appropriate professional regarding their concerns is suggested.