Ga Dept of Agriculture


Animal Cruelty FAQs

What is the legal definition of animal cruelty in Georgia?
a.  Cruelty to Animals (misdemeanor charge): A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he/she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect.  O.C.G.A. §16-12-4

§Willful neglect means the intentional withholding of food and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or dehydration.  O.C.G.A. §16-12-4

§Adequate food and water means food and water that is sufficient in an amount and appropriate for the particular type of animal to prevent starvation, dehydration, or a significant risk to the animal's health from a lack of food or water. O.C.G.A. §§4-11-2, 4-13-2

§Humane care of animals means, but is not limited to, the provision of      adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter, and wholesome and adequate food and water, consistent with the normal requirements and feeding habits of the animal's size, species, and breed. O.C.G.A. §§4-11-2, 4-13-2

b.   Aggravated Cruelty to Animals (felony charge): A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal's body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal… [paraphrased] except for conduct otherwise permitted under state or federal law.  O.C.G.A. §16-12-4

Local law enforcement (municipal or county police department or county sheriff's department) enforces the criminal provisions of Cruelty to Animals, O.C.G.A. §16-12-4.  An animal control officer is an individual authorized by local law or by the governing authority of a county or municipality to carry out the duties imposed by local ordinance and certain articles contained within the Georgia Animal Protection Act, O.C.G.A. §4-11-2

How do I report an abused or neglected animal?
In order to effectively report an alleged animal cruelty incident, you should be able to provide the following information to the local Animal Control or Sheriffs Department.

Witness: The name, address and telephone number of the person who witnessed the alleged incident. Such information may be kept confidential, depending on the particular agency; however, it is helpful for investigators to have a point of contact in the event of misdirection or miscommunication. Remember, the burden of proof falls upon the accuser.

Who: An accurate identity of the alleged perpetrator, if known, including name, address and telephone number, if possible and known associates or co-participants in the alleged criminal activity.

What and How: An accurate and exact description of the incident witnessed. The investigator must receive sufficient details and be able to verify substantial portions of the information as true before being used to establish probable cause. Document complete descriptions of the animals and associated conditions and include:

Pertinent conversations with the alleged perpetrator;

Eyewitness accounts to reconstruct the exact happenings of what and how the incident occurred (written notes and PHOTOGRAPHS are very valuable - a picture is worth a thousand words);

Written documents or reports that verify conditions (i.e., veterinary examination findings);

When: The date(s) and time(s) of the incident(s)

Where: The specific location where the incident was witnessed (physical address and city, community, or county), including directions.

Who do I call to report an alleged animal cruelty incident?
Please refer to the following lists to report animal cruelty or humane care violations against different species:

For Companion Animals (e.g., dogs, cats, exotic birds, pet rabbits, pot–bellied pigs)

  • Report those persons holding an Animal Protection License issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (or those that should be licensed) to the Animal Protection Section at 1-800-282-5852, ext. 4914 or 404-656-4914, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Report all other persons to the local law enforcement agency and the animal control office, if one exists in the area.  Report to the municipal or county police department or county sheriff's department using the non-emergency number, unless the alleged perpetrator is actively involved in an act that threatens an animal's life. If you suspect that other crimes (e.g., illegal drug activity or gambling) are involved, be sure to report this as a part of the call.

For Equine (e.g., horses, mules, donkeys, zebras)

  • Report to the Georgia Department of Agriculture Equine Health Section at 1-800-282-5852, ext. 3713 or 404-656-3713, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or to the local law enforcement agency and the animal control office, if one exists in the area.

For other Livestock (e.g., cattle, swine, goats, sheep, poultry, llamas)

  • Report to your local municipal or county police department or county sheriff's department.

For Captive Wildlife or Exotic Animals (e.g., whitetail deer, raptors, large cats)

Report to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division at 770-761-3044, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  They license individuals and companies engaged in the exhibition of wildlife and exotic animals (not normally domesticated) and enforces the Standards for Humane Handling and Care, O.C.G.A. §27-5-6.  For more information, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.

For Circus or Zoo Animals (e.g., elephants, primates, big cats,  circus dogs)

Report to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care, Regional Office, Raleigh, N.C. at 919-716-5532, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  They license animal dealers (pet wholesalers, animal brokers, laboratory animal breeders and dealers, exotic and wild animal dealers), animal transporters (commercial airlines), animal exhibitors (circuses, zoos, promotional animal exhibits), and research facilities. They enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act and the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A.  For more information, visit the USDA website