Law Enforcement

As a leader in animal welfare, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is committed to preventing animal suffering, neglect, and abuse in Massachusetts.

Law Enforcement investigates crimes against animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect. ARL employs Special State Police Officers, with the authority to enforce animal cruelty and neglect laws. These officers work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and animal control officers throughout the Commonwealth.

In 2023, ARL’s Law Enforcement department helped 1,926 animals.

Although we work closely with the state, as well as many cities and towns, ARL does not receive any government or public funding and relies solely on the support of compassionate individuals like you. Donate now to help us continue our important work to serve animals and communities in need!

Report Animal Cruelty

dog under fence Suspect animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse? Call (617) 426-9170 x110 or email cruelty@arlboston.org.

Your calls are confidential; however, we will require some information to file a valid police report.

We all have a role to play in prevention. All too often, animal cruelty remains undiscovered. By many estimates, 4 out of 5 cases remain concealed, leaving animals to suffer in silence.

Recognizing and reporting animal abuse is especially important, due to the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. A correlation between animal abuse, family violence, and other forms of community violence has been established.

Not sure if it’s animal cruelty? Learn the 7 warning signs.

Emergency Assistance

As part of its Community Outreach programs, ARL’s Field Services provides technical (tree climbing and swift/ice water) and non-technical rescues for injured domestic animals -including community cats– livestock, and raptors (turkey vultures, ospreys, hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls).

If an animal is in imminent danger, contact your local Animal Control Office or Police Department for possible assistance, as they may have quicker access to an emergency scene.

7 Warning Signs of Animal Cruelty

While most of us recognize that punching, kicking, burning, choking, or hitting an animal with an object are acts of animal cruelty, there are also more subtle warning signs that could indicate mistreatment, neglect, or abuse.

      1. Howling or barking for a sustained period of time, or hearing an animal cry in pain with a persistent high-pitched vocal sound
      2. Singed, matted, chronically or excessively dirty hair or fur.
      3. Wounds, unusual scars, hair loss, frequent limping often on different legs, or signs of improper nutrition
      4. Animals kept caged or tied with little room to move for long periods of time or without regular interaction with people
      5. Lack of protection from the weather or feces- or debris-strewn living areas for animals.
      6. Collars, leashes, or halters so tight they visibly dig into the animal’s face or neck.
      7. A large number of animals coming or going from a property.

Types of Animal Cruelty


Some types of animal cruelty include, but are not limited to:

cat outside Animal Neglect or Abandonment

Animal neglect or abandonment is a common type of animal cruelty where people do not provide adequate care for animals in their charge. The neglected animal may be their own pet, a farm animal, or other. A neglected animal is not provided adequate levels of food, water, shelter, veterinary care, or socialization.

Animal Abuse

Animal abuse is both the unintentional (neglect) and the intentional (infliction of suffering or harm). Animal abuse can come in many forms; the most common of which include:

      1. Physical abuse is characterized by the deliberate inflicting of injuries or causing pain, including inappropriate methods of training. Dogfighting or other animal “blood sports” (i.e., cockfighting, finch fighting) are considered types of physical abuse.
      2. Emotional abuse may include repeated or sustained ‘mental violence’ (intimidation through loud yelling or threatening behaviors) or deliberate isolation through the withholding social interactions.
      3. Sexual abuse includes any sexual conduct with animals, which may or may not result in physical injury to the animal.

Animal hoarding

Animal hoarding is a serious, yet under-recognized community problem in Massachusetts that is responsible for substantial animal suffering. Often associated with adult self-neglect and/or mental illness, animal hoarding can also place children, the elderly, dependent adults, property, and public health at risk. The situations that ARL encounters are becoming more frequent and increasingly complex.

The 3 main types of animal hoarders are:

      1. Overwhelmed caregivers, commonly referred to in lay terms as a “cat lady”, and are often well-intentioned in their behavior and experience a gradual decline in animal caretaking ability due to changes in financial or medical circumstances.
      2. Rescuer hoarders are those who actively acquire animals due to their strong sense of mission to save animals from death or other circumstances and will not seek the assistance of an animal welfare agencies or authorities.
      3. Exploiter hoarders actively acquire animals to serve their own needs and lack guilt and remorse for the harm that their actions may cause animals or other humans.

The 4 main characteristics of animal hoarding are:

      1. Failure to provide minimal standards of sanitation, space, nutrition, and veterinary care for animals.
      2. Inability to recognize the effects of this failure on the welfare of the animals, humans in the household, and environment.
      3. Obsessive attempts to accumulate/maintain a collection of animals in the face of progressively deteriorating conditions.
      4. Denial or minimization of problems and living conditions for people and animals.

Animal Welfare Position Statements

Since 1899, ARL has responded to an ever-changing world and the constantly-evolving challenges with respect to animal welfare and protection. We believe that animals are a fundamental part of our world and they deserve the highest level of care, protection, and kindness.

Read ARL’s animal welfare position statements, which are grounded in our beliefs and our experience with animals and people.

Compliments and Complaints

To file a compliment or complaint about an ARL law enforcement officer, please complete this form. For all complaints filed, ARL will comply with POST Commission regulations and procedures listed in 555 CMR 1.00, “Procedural Rules for Receiving, Investigating, Hearing and Adjudicating Complaints Regarding Law Enforcement Officers”.

To file this form:
Mail to: 10 Anna’s Place, Dedham, MA 02026, Attn: LE Dept.
Email to: Cruelty@arlboston.org

If you need the form mailed or emailed to you, please email or call ARL’s Law Enforcement Department at cruelty@arlboston.org or (617) 426-9170 x110.