Animal Cruelty Awareness Month

Learn the Signs & Report Cruelty Cases to Police


Tethered to a car with a short rope.


A sweet-natured, but malnourished 6-month-old Boxer puppy with mange and a severely infected paw; was neglected by owners. A dog named Diesel, tethered to a car in the rain, was left unable to lie down or move from a standing position. Owners moved away and left their pet behind, alone, in their former home. These are just a few of the hundreds of animal cruelty cases investigated by Fairfax County Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) every year. In 2012, ACO’s responded to 790 “animal welfare” reports. In 2013, that number rose to 804.

April is Animal Cruelty Awareness Month. In observance of this, ACO’s are reminding residents of what constitutes cruelty. They are also encouraging neighbors, family members, and all residents to learn the signs of cruelty to animals and to report these incidents to police. Helpless animals depend on humans to intervene when their conditions are uninhabitable or unfit.

The legal definition of animal cruelty is as follows:

“Any person who: overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, ill-treats, abandons, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelly or unnecessarily beats, maims, mutilates, or kills any animal, whether belonging to himself or another. Deprives any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment. Sores any equine for any purpose or administers drugs or medications to alter or mask such soring for purpose of sale, show, or exhibition of any kind, unless such administration of drugs or medications is within the context of a veterinary client-patient relationship and solely for therapeutic purposes. Willfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal. Carries of causes by any vehicle, vessel, or otherwise any animal in a cruel, brutal, or inhuman manner so as to produce torture or unnecessary suffering or causes any of the above things. This is a Class I misdemeanor and is punishable by fines, jail, and or psychiatric counseling upon conviction.”

Abandoned by his owner.

Abandoned by his owner.

In conjunction with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ACO’s remind residents of how to recognize signs and symptoms of animal cruelty:

  • Wounds on the body.
  • Patches of missing hair.
  • Extremely thin, emaciated appearance.
  • Limping.
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal.
  • Dogs repeatedly left alone without food and water; often chained in a yard.
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars and are not taken to a veterinarian.
  • Animals left outside in extreme weather without shelter.

What can residents DO?

  • Get familiar with animals in your neighborhood; be aware and look for indications of serious health changes.
  • Make the call. Animals depend on it.
  • Provide as much information as possible when making a report; type of cruelty, who was involved, date of incident(s), location.
  • Contact an ACO if you have questions; 703-691-2131.
  • As a pet owner, set a good example for others to follow. Treat your pets with respect, proper care and love.

Continue to follow the FCPD News for updates and tips throughout the month of April for more information and tips on Animal Cruelty Awareness.


A malnourished Boxer pup.