How to Report a Pet Store

Lydia Peirce-Dougherty, Esq.
From the RMCA web site, April 2004

Animal cruelty can be very broadly defined as the act of causing physical or psychological harm to an animal, ranging from benign neglect to malicious killing and torture. The definition of animal cruelty is different in every jurisdiction.

Why should we care? Besides any ethical and moral considerations, there is a documented and acknowledged link between animal cruelty and human cruelty. People who commit violent crimes against animals have a much higher potential to commit violent crimes against human beings.

"Pocket pets," including rats and mice, are often the first victims of a violent abuser because small animals are helpless and often seen as fungible by society at large. Violence against rats and mice is extremely serious and should be viewed as having the potential to predict future violent behavior on the part of the offender.

The following pertains to:

  1. domestic strains of Rattus norvegicus and/or Mus musculus
  2. held in pet stores
  3. located in the United States
If your situation does not meet all three of criteria above, the information below will be incorrect.

When rats and mice are held by pet stores in inhumane conditions, you must act quickly. Be prepared before you see an act of cruelty, and you will save valuable time. Remember, rats and mice cannot speak - you must be their voice.

The following information is repetitive and dry. Such is the law.

Step 1. Sit down with paper and pencil. Identify the following:


State statutes

Step 2. Every state has at least one animal cruelty statute on the books. Animal cruelty is always a crime. Domestic rats and mice are "animals" in every state. Locate and copy the animal cruelty statutes for your state.

Resources for finding state statutes

FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/
ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/site/FrameSet?style=StateLaw
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF): http://www.aldf.org/content.asp?sect=action§ionid=3
Rutger's University School of Law: Animal Rights Law Project: http://www.animal-law.org/statutes/

County statutes

Step 3. Your county may have animal cruelty ordinances that complement your state laws. County ordinances cannot be less restrictive than state laws. Domestic mice/rats are animals. Animal cruelty is a crime. Locate and copy the animal cruelty ordinances for your county.

Resources for finding county statutes

Municipal Code Corporation (Municode): http://www.municode.com/
FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/

City statutes

Step 4. Your city may have animal cruelty ordinances that complement your county ordinances and state laws. City ordinances can not be less restrictive than county ordinances or state law. Domestic mice/rats are animals. Animal Cruelty is a crime. Locate and copy the animal cruelty ordinances for your city.

Resources for finding city statutes

FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/
Municipal Code Corporation (Municode): http://www.municode.com/
ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/site/FrameSet?style=Animal

Step 5. The enforcement of animal cruelty laws is different for every jurisdiction in the country. Enforcement may also vary from city to city. Locate an animal welfare organization in your city and ask how incidents of animal cruelty should be reported. If you do not reside in a city and/or have no animal welfare organizations in your general area, call the non-emergency number of your police department and ask how incidents of animal cruelty should be reported. If you do not have a "police department," call your County Sheriff's office and ask how incidents of animal cruelty should be reported.

Please remember: you need to contact the authorities where the crime took place. For example, if a pet store within the city limits of Rodent Rapids is keeping rats and mice in cruel conditions, you must contact the City of Rodent Rapids Police Department, even if you reside outside city limits in La Paws County, USA.

Step 6. When you witness an act of cruelty, immediately contact the appropriate authorities and write down what you saw for future reference. Many people find incidents of animal cruelty to be extremely upsetting and stressful; crucial details can be lost or distorted after the fact. You know the guidelines: Who, What, How, When, Why, Where.

If you witness an animal cruelty situation that threatens your life or others, call 911 for emergency help. Please use discretion.

Please note: The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is not affiliated with your local "SPCA" (unless you live in the City of New York, NY). The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not affiliated with your local "humane society," although HSUS does maintain branch offices in every region of the county. The phrases "humane society" and "SPCA" (or variations thereof) have passed into common usage and simply indicate an animal welfare organization.

The Maddie's Fund website has additional information on this important point:


The above information is not intended as legal advice, and use of the above information will not result in the creation of an attorney/client relationship.